So it is to be an ‘in or out’ EU referendum – with imponderables

If you can believe a word they say – and both Labour and the Tories now have form in reneging on unequivocal promises to hold referenda on EU matters – the Prime Minister this morning promised an ‘in or out’ referendum on EU membership – but only after he has renegotiated the terms of Britain’s membership.

He did  not say what would happen if he was unable to negotiate the terms he wants – nor did he specify any detail of the terms he would seek. Both of these omissions leave a lot of manoeuvering room.

The negotiations over the repatriation of some unspecified powers to the UK might be strategically allowed by both sides to potter on from deadlock to deadlock for a considerable time. All the PM has promised is to put the end results of the negotiation to the public vote. He has set  no deadline.

All he has said is that if – and this is currently a very big ‘if’ – the Conservative party is elected to power at the next General Election, there will be an early ‘in or out’ referendum on the renegotiated terms of British EU membership – and that this will be by the end of 2017, at the latest.

Mr Cameron’s partner in the current coalition government, Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is describing the Prime Minister’s position as leading to years of uncertainty and likely to impact on jobs.

The Liberal Democrats are long time and unquestioning supporters of EU membership.

No one knows when the major eurozone financial crisis will break – because sooner or later it must – or what its outcome will be when it comes. The years of uncertainty over this and its impact on jobs appear to be a matter of far more profound uncertainty with which the Lib Dem Leader is happy to live.

From now on in

The UK now faces a lively few years.

  • There’s the Scottish referendum on an ‘in or out’ of the UK next year, 2014.
  • There’ll be the UK General Election in 2015.
  • If Scotland voted ‘Yes’ there will be Scottish elections in 2016.
  • And if Scotland voted ‘Yes’ we’ll be out of the UK by the end of 2016.
  • Then, either all of the UK or the then home nations of England, Wales and Northern Ireland will [possibly] vote on an ‘in or out’ of the EU referendum in 2017.

By that time the 2015 UK Government will be at or coming up to the half way mark of its elected term – and the rest of its period of office will be coloured by the aftermath of the Scottish and EU referenda vote, whichever way either goes.

And if Scotland had voted ‘Yes’ in 2014, there would most probably be a different set of EU negotiations going on in 2017, with the new independent government keen to find alternative shelter.

A few imponderables

Interestingly, no one has uttered a peep on whether, in the event of Scotland voting ‘Yes’ to independence in October 2014, with a two year settlement period to 2016 for the implementation of formal independence – Scots would still be entitled to vote in the 2015 UK General Election?

What would be the electorate for this election in this scenario?

Would there need to be an interim statute to remove the right of Scots to vote in it, pending the finalisation of independence in the following year?

Would Scotland continue to be funded under the Barnett formula, from a hypothetical ‘Yes’ vote in October 2014 to 2016 – or whenever final independence became a statutory fact? [The reason for the caveat here is that qualified opinion, which appears to have practical reason on its side, suggests that a two year settlement period to implementation of independence is hopelessly optimistic.]

Logic suggests that Scotland would have to continue to be funded from Westminster until statutory separation from the UK and independence were enacted as appropriate in both parliaments.

This would mean that Scots remained citizens of the UK during that time and would indeed vote in the 2015 UK General Election.

The possible scenario here is that, before departing, Scotland would leave the UK the legacy of a Labour government that might not have been the case had the vote been held in the already emergent new UK of England, Scotland and Wales.

And that scenario would almost certainly mean no ‘in or out’ EU referendum in 2017.

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10 Responses to So it is to be an ‘in or out’ EU referendum – with imponderables

  1. Quote…”The possible scenario here is that, before departing, Scotland would leave the UK the legacy of a Labour government that might not have been the case had the vote been held in the already emergent new UK of England, Scotland and Wales.”
    How do you come to that conclusion? and what about Northern Ireland

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  2. Cameron has just lit the fuse on a five year civil war within his party as the Tory right make it their sole business to campaign against Europe.

    A war with Europe is brewing at a time when Britain can least afford it, and even the USA is warning Britain about what it’s isolationist policy will do to US relations.

    Cameron to appease the Tory right has fired the gun and the war has begun.

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  3. If we’re talking about communities that are disadvantaged by membership of a larger bloc, it surely can’t have escaped the attention of the thoughtful Ileach that – were this island to declare fiscal independence – it would generate more wealth per head than any other part of Europe except maybe Lichtenstein and Monaco.

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  4. For me this is final proof that Cameron has no real interest in maintaining the Union. If the SNP were writing his script it couldn’t work out better for them.

    So he ‘insists’ on a one question referendum meaning the stark choice is between the status quo or independence. Then, shortly after the SNP have seemed to be taking damage over the issue of Scotland’s membership of the EU post-independence, up pops Cameron and puts EU membership in doubt even if Scotland remained in the UK.

    So, any Scot who wants more powers devolved from Westminster and also wants to know they will be in a state which is a member of the EU will have only one sure choice in the referendum.

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  5. It`s a bizarre situation! On the one hand the UK mumble about Europe telling us what to do, forcing laws we don`t want, hence why we`re likely going to be asked if we want to withdraw. And on the other band, the SNP want rid of meddling Westminster and cosy right in with the even more meddlesome EU! The Indy argument doesn`t stack up anymore.

    Unless the SNP guarantee a referendum on Europe immediately after a Yes, then they are heading for a fankle.
    My money is on the coalition failing next year, Labour squeezing back in and Indy falling apart.

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    • If our taxes earned here in Scotland were being sent directly to the bureaucrats in Brussels for them to part re-distribute to us in the form of a block grant I most definately would vote for us to be outwith the European union.

      “Meddling Westminster” have a far tighter stranglehold on Scotland affecting our potential to flourish in comparison to a future independent Scotland’s membership of the European union.

      This being just one of many many reasons I will most definately be voting ‘Yes’ in 2014 but remain undecided regarding EU.

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    • Even more bizarre, the Tories wanting a referendum on leaving Europe when they would happily have denied Scotland the same right to decide whether to leave the UK, for roughly the same reason, which is the ability to make our own laws to suit our own circumstances. Cameron has opened a big can of worms with this announcement and it will make our referendum debate so much more interesting. The Tories are going to get themselves in a right fankle over saying one thing about Europe and claiming the opposite where it concerns Scotland in the UK. Labour, of course, will say anything they think might get them elected again and leave their Socialist roots even further behind than they already have as they pursue the soft Tory vote.

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  6. “Interestingly, no one has uttered a peep on whether, in the event of Scotland voting ‘Yes’ to independence in October 2014, with a two year settlement period to 2016 for the implementation of formal independence – Scots would still be entitled to vote in the 2015 UK General Election”

    Really good ponderable this one Newsroom.

    We in Scotland after a yes vote in 2014 would still be governed from Westminster until 2016 so it would be undemocratic not to have a say in which party does so from 2015 to 2016. Having said that, 10% of Scotland’s electorate voted Tory at the last general election so a distinct lack of democracy exists here regardless.

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  7. And with Mervyn King declaring that the banks could go back into private ownership one wonders if the Westminster government is divesting itself of ownership lest there is another crisis which the state cannot afford to bail out as the UK economy continues to contract whilst sovereign debt continues to rise.

    Falling out with Europe to appease the Tory right may be the worst thing Cameron will ever do.

    The politics are bizzare to say the least.

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