National daily newspaper, The Scotsman is reporting that it has seen an EU letter on the matter of the position of an independent Scotland and the EU.
The papers quotes the letter as saying: ‘If a territory of a member state ceases to be part of that member state because it has become an independent state then the treaties would cease to apply to that territory’, going on to state that an independent Scotland would become ‘a third country’ on independence. This is the technical term used to describe a European state outside the EU – one which would need to apply to join it.
The letter is not accepted by the Scottish Government as meaning what it appears to mean.
Cabinet Secretary, John Swinney, distinguishes between ‘application’ and ‘negotiation’, focusing on the two year period the First Minister has set between a hypothetical vote for independence on October 2014 and resulting independence ion 2016.
Mr Swinney sees this two year limbo – widely considered to be unrealistically short – as the period within which Scotland would ‘negotiate’ EU membership ‘from within’. The problem here is that if the BBC’s Gavin Hewitt is correct in saying that: ‘There would be a negotiation which would only start when it was clear what the relationship was between Scotland and London.’ – this would not be the case in the proposed two year scramble to unpick and rebuild all of the arteries of government and administration which bind Scotland in the Union.
During this period all of the sharing out agreements on the allocation of assets and responsibilities wold also be ongoing. The relationship between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK would not be clear until all of this was completed – and that is very unlikely to be within the proposed two years.
The reality is that this is a pointless issue.
The UK as a whole – including many Scots – now see a stronger, more independent, less restricted future outside EU membership. This may well accelerate as the continuing crisis in the eurozone unravels.
The EU does what it likes. It is likely to need new members to prop it up. We would happily bet that an independent Scotland wishing to be a member would be a shoo in – whatever the protocols – and the door would clang shut behind it.
As we have said before. the issue is not whether an independent Scotland will have to reapply to the EU – but whether it should be considering this membership at all.