Exclusive – Scotland EU membership claims described as ‘error strewn fantasy’


By G.A.Ponsonby

A document purporting to cast doubt on Scotland’s continued membership of the EU post-independence has been ridiculed after it emerged it contained a list of embarrassing errors.

The document called ‘Scottish Independence and EU Accession’ is published by London based pro-business body called Business for a New Europe (BNE) who claim that an independent Scotland would face significant obstacles if it wanted to remain in the EU.

According to the document Scotland would have to renegotiate the terms of its membership and would require the unanimous approval all current members before being accepted as a new member after independence.

However, according to MEP Alyn Smith the document is riddled with some embarrassing errors and bases some of its assertions on out of date rules.

The report claims: “Accession to the European Union requires adjustments to its founding treaties and the unanimous approval of member states.”

However the Lisbon treaty changed the way that the EU works and made enlargement easier.  Enlargement no longer requires adjustments to existing treaties.  Furthermore, it has been made clear recently that Scotland’s membership can be agreed by a qualified majority vote in the European Council.

The document also claims that: “For an independent Scotland to join the European Union, it would also need to negotiate the terms of its membership.”

This too is questionable, EU lawyers recently confirmed that both Scotland and the rest of the UK will be treated as successor states.  In a statement the legal experts confirmed that Scotland’s status, like the remainder of the UK, would be negotiated “by the [European] Council, using qualified majority voting, and with the required say-so of the European Parliament”.

In fact a Commission spokesman told the Guardian newspaper as far back as 1998 that Scotland could be a Member State on the first day of independence.

The document also bizarrely claims that there is: “The possibility of a Scottish precedent emboldening secessionist movements in other member states could incline the EU towards the normal accession process.  It might also shape the EU’s attitude towards the terms of membership.”

This is thought to be a reference to Spain and the situation involving the Catalan movement which is seeking its own independence.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo was asked last month about claims by the UK Government that Spain might seek to obstruct Scotland’s membership due to the situation with Catalonia.

Senor Garcia-Margallo denied the UK Minister’s claim and said: “Spain would have nothing to say, just that this does not affect us.  No one would object to a consented independence of Scotland.”

The report also claims that an independent Scotland could be forced into joining the Euro – “If there were concerns about setting a precedent that might embolden secessionist movements elsewhere, Scotland could be asked to accept all EU membership criteria, including the euro,”

However, as the report itself admits, Sweden joined the EU in 1995 without having to join the euro, and Swedes voted No in a referendum on joining the euro in 2003.

Claiming to be an “in depth” piece devoid of “scaremongering”, the report’s author talks of “separation” and of “secession” from the UK.

It raises the spectre of border controls in an independent Scotland and suggests EU membership would cost Scots £76 more as a result of lost rebates – a figure it admits is a “back of the envelope” calculation.

Other embarrassing gaffes contained in the document involve the mechanism for determining the number of MEP seats awarded to each state and the weighted voting system.

The author claims that in the event of independence for Scotland both these areas would face renegotiation.  However membership numbers are currently determined by a formula and weighted voting is scheduled to disappear in 2014 – the year of the referendum.

The documents author is Dr Daniel Furby who is described as the Brussels Associate for BNE.  BNE describes itself as an independent coalition of business leaders advocating a positive case for reform in Europe.

A right wing body, its Chairman Rolan Rudd has close links to the Conservative party, his sister Amber was elected Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye.

Rudd is also reported to be close friends with Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, former Labour cabinet Minister Lord Mandelson, the Murdochs and BBC business editor Robert Peston.  Rudd was seen as the go-between who brought together New Labour and the City.

BNE’s advisory council includes Leon Brittan who was a Minister in Margaret Thatcher’s Government as well as Chris Gibson-Smith who is the chair of the London Stock exchange.

SNP MEP Alyn Smith branded the report as nothing more than a “fantasy”.

Commenting, Mr Smith said:

“Scotland’s position in Europe is clear and straightforward; Scotland, together with the rest of the UK, is part of the territory of the European Union and the people of Scotland are citizens of the EU and will remain so.

“Only last month legal experts were quoted as saying that Scotland’s independent membership – like that of what’s left of the UK would be negotiated as a deal ‘done by the [European] Council, using qualified majority voting, and with the required say-so of the European Parliament’

“The idea that Spain would oppose Scotland’s membership is a myth that has been exploded as well, the Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said last month that “Spain would have nothing to say, just that this does not affect us. No one would object to a consented independence of Scotland.”

“The SNP welcomes all contributions to the independence debate but we would hope that organisations which tout themselves as expert voices would at least try to get the details right.

“Scotland will be an EU Member State on day one of independence.”

The report can be viewed here: http://www.bnegroup.org/images/uploads/publications/files/In_Depth_-_Scottish_Independence_and_EU_Accession_-_BNE_March_2012.pdf