CONSERVATIVE MEP FOR SCOTLAND

I met a man in a bar, and he told me…

27.07.2014.

I met a man in a bar, and he told me...
One of my petty gripes over the course of the referendum campaign has been the citation of anonymous and ghostly sources. Unnamed folks, seemingly in the know, whose intel is dynamite. Remember the unnamed Tory source who declared that there would be a currency union, or the SNP source that declared Mr Barroso was opposing Scottish EU membership to curry support for his ambition to be NATO Secretary General. Well, despite my inherent antipathy to such sources, I bumped into a man in a bar the other night, (well technically a restaurant) and he wanted to talk about Scottish independence. So far, so same old. However this guy is a genuine Eurocrat. And he has been considering the question of Scottish membership of the EU. So here is what he had to say.

First off, several of the EU institutions have been exploring the question of Scottish EU membership for some time, but being clever fellows, they have committed nothing to paper.

Second, he was clear that there would be enough opposition within the Council to prevent an independent Scotland securing automatic EU membership (since this would require unanimity). Scotland would have to apply for membership. He expressed views on how he thought the various member states would respond to this, but that is perhaps for a later blog...

So, to the crux, the Eurocrats have a problem. Let's go hypothetical for a moment. Scotland votes for independence on 18 September so kick-starting negotiations at home and abroad. In EU terms the negotiations would have to be taken forward by the UK. Well, that's not news, I hear you say. However, the reason this is an issue for the EU is that up until Scotland actually becomes independent it does not exist as a sovereign state, a basic precondition under international law. It could not negotiate, nor could it sign any treaties. In legal terms it does not exist. So in order to prepare an accession treaty, and initiate the ratification process in the 28 member states, a non-state would have to apply for membership, or an existing state (the UK) would have to apply on behalf of a non-state. This is without precedent. Yes, Scotland would become a state in the future, but until that date it would have no legal standing. It might seem petty, it might seem bureaucratic, it might seem legalistic, but those criteria alone define the approach of the EU.

It was also noted that several member states would be uneasy about commencing accession talks until the nature of an independent Scotland was clear. This chimes with the remarks of Lord Kerr, former Foreign Office mandarin, who is of the view that EU member states would want to know what 'version' of Scotland they were admitting; what would be its currency, its share of debt and assets, its regulatory frameworks, its relations with the rUK? The 'version' of course would only be resolved during negotiations between London and Edinburgh. So discussions between London and Edinburgh would have to be fairly advanced before talks with Brussels, London and Edinburgh could start.

Next step, and here I am going to quote. I had to get my phone out and type it in directly lest I get it wrong or mistranslate. The EU consists of 6 original member states and 22 acceding states. Not one of these acceding states was granted an opt-out of any part of the acquis communitaire, (the EU treaties and legislation based thereon). All the opt-outs currently in operation across the EU were negotiated by member states within the union. In effect the opt-outs are compensation for letting the other member states go further with integration (since the addition of any new competence requires the unanimous support of the existing members, and without the opt-outs they would have blocked this integration). In the case of the UK, think Schengen, think Justice opt outs, think Euro. Scotland joining the EU would benefit from no existing British opt-outs. It would have to negotiate each and every opt-out it wished to enjoy. And the important fact, not a single applicant state has successfully negotiated an opt-out before it became a member. Not one. Such negotiations would only be possible after membership was secured.

I probed this a little further. On Schengen the EU official was clear; there would be no opt out. Too big, too important. On the Euro, the same. Scotland would have to sign a treaty declaring that it would adopt the Euro. No justice opt-outs either.
Anyway, that's what a man in a bar told me...