by Russell Bruce
Twitter, I am informed, has been set alight by a House of Commons report. Namely HC 643 The foreign policy implications of and for a separate Scotland. Bloggers are out in force quoting from the paper and posting links. Seldom has a paper prepared for the House of Commons stirred such interest and dare I say it – excitement.
To quote directly from the paper on the objectives and highlights, the following provides a useful summary of the contents.
1. The object of this note is to clarify the procedure by which, following a referendum in which the Scottish people vote in favour of independence, Scotland could become a member of the European Union. Although the note touches on wider issues such as the terms of Scotland’s membership and the attitude of the EU member states and institutions, it focuses on the question of the procedure for Scotland’s accession.
2. In the debate on Scottish independence it is natural that opponents tend to exaggerate the difficulties of EU membership, while proponents tend to minimise them. This note tries to address the subject as objectively as possible. In summary it argues that:
- · Arrangements for Scotland’s EU membership would need to be in place simultaneously with independence
- · Scotland’s 5 million people, having been members of the EU for 40 years; have acquired rights as European citizens
- · For practical and political reasons they could not be asked to leave the EU and apply for readmission
- · Negotiations on the terms of membership would take place in the period between the referendum and the planned date of independence
- · The EU would adopt a simplified procedure for the negotiations, not the traditional procedure followed for the accession of non-member countries
This publication is particularly valuable because it is an objective analysis from an academic with a background of over 40 years experience of EU affairs and as an insider in early negotiations prior to the UK joining the then European Economic Community. The author, Graham Avery, is Senior Member of St. Antony’s College, Oxford University, Senior Adviser at the European Policy Centre, Brussels, and Honorary Director-General of the European Commission.
Will this end the controversy surrounding Scotland’s position in Europe? Probably not, for those only interested in scaremongering rather than actually finding a few or any arguments for the benefits of continuing with the Union.
Professor Avery in the rest of the paper highlights benefits to Scotland and resulting changes to the position of RUK. Scotland will be entitled to increased membership as well as the advantage of have a seat in the Council of Europe.
Scotland currently has 6 MEPs, reduced from eight on enlargement some years ago. Scotland would be entitled to the same as Denmark, Finland or Slovakia according to Graham Avery as countries with populations or between 5 and 6 million.
Denmark, Finland and Slovakia each have 13 MEPs and this would mean a reallocation of MEPs from the rest of the UK as the number of members of the European Parliament does not increase with changes to the total membership of the EU.
Another concern for Westminster governments would be the negotiations over the UK rebate that would be the subject of negotiations involving the Commission and the UK and Scottish governments.
Graham Avery has set out a route map for Scotland’s position in Europe that is rational and builds on an insiders experience of European pragmaticism.
The full paper can be accessed at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmfaff/writev/643/m05.htm
The copyright of the House of Commons is acknowledged in quoting from the first two sections of Professor Avery’s paper.