Heeding Spain's warning to Scots on EU membership

Scots aiming for independence had better heed the Spanish prime minister's warning that an independent Scotland would have a job on its hands to join the EU. He means it, and he's right

Marching out of the EU?
the commentator
On 28 November 2013 05:34

Whatever you think about Scottish independence and whatever you think about the European Union, it is surely important that Scottish voters in next year's referendum on independence from Britain understand that the two may not be compatible with each other.

That point, which is sure to have an impact on the debate in Scotland, has just been made explicitly by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who was quoted by the BBC as saying:

"I would like that the consequences of that secession be presented with realism to Scots. Citizens have the right to be well informed and particularly when it's about taking decisions like this one.

"I respect all the decisions taken by the British, but I know for sure that a region that would separate from a member state of the European Union would remain outside the European Union and that should be known by the Scots and the rest of the European citizens".

Rajoy's reasons for making what would in normal circumstances be regarded as unwarranted interference in the domestic affairs of a friendly nation are clear. The Spanish state itself faces serious independence movements in Catalonia and the Basque region.

Should Scotland vote to secede from the Union, such a move would inevitably threaten a domino effect. And not just in Spain. Belgium, for example, is hopelessly divided between French speaking Walloons and the Flemish Dutch-speakers.

Potentially secessionist Hungarian minorities in formerly communist EU countries such as Romania and Slovakia could also draw inspiration from Scottish independence. Italy too has related issues to consider.

There are therefore several EU member states that would be looking to make life as difficult as possible for an independent Scotland so as to give pause for thought to movements that might seek to follow suit back home.

Given that an independent Scotland would have to negotiate EU membership, and given that complete unanimity among all 28 member states is required for new membership to be approved, there is no guarantee whatsoever that an independent Scotland would actually be able to join.

Indeed, at the very least it is likely that there would be a great deal of foot dragging from a number of EU states meaning that Scottish membership of the European Union could easily take years and could quite possibly never happen at all.

To repeat, think what you like about Scottish independence, and membership of the European Union. But it will be interesting to see whether the standard bearers of Scottish secession have the courage honestly to explain the potential contradiction.

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