By Chris Rumbles
Labour’s senior MEP David Martin has described European Commission president José Manuel Barroso’s comments on an independent Scotland’s potential exclusion from the EU as ‘loose talk’ and probably down to poor English.
Mr Martin, an MEP since 1984, was speaking on BBC’s ‘Sunday Politics Scotland’ programme when he made the comment as part of a discussion with other candidates for the upcoming European elections in Scotland.
President Barroso’s comments while appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show in February ignited further debate on Scotland’s place in the EU should it vote ‘Yes’ in September. Mr Barroso explained he thought it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible” for an independent Scotland to obtain enough support among EU members to maintain its membership.
When commenting on President Barroso’s assessment of Scotland’s EU membership Mr Martin said: “I think you have to bear in mind that English is not Mr Barroso’s first language and I think what he was really saying not impossible but it would be extremely difficult and that is still my position that it would be extremely difficult.”
As presenter Gary Robertson interjected to supply Barroso’ full quote by saying: “He said ‘extremely difficult, if not impossible’.Those were the words he used”, Mr Martin then replied: “Yeah well probably loose talk but I think he might well be right in the long run because there is nothing certain in any of this”.
The remarks made by Mr Martin in relation to President Barroso’s view come the same day that the Sunday Herald newspaper’s front page carried an interview with the Labour MEP in which he was quoted as saying “independence is no barrier to EU membership”.
Better Together’s official ‘Factsheet’ on the EU states that “If we [Scotland] have to reapply to join the EU we cannot guarantee what would happen”.
Yet clarifying his own contrasting view on the ‘Sunday Politics Scotland’, Mr Martin said that “I would expect Scotland, one day, to become a member of the EU if it became an independent country”.
Claims from the No campaign that a newly independent Scotland would be thrown out of the EU were further undermined after a leading Lib Dem MEP said such a move would be politically unacceptable.
Speaking on a Spanish radio programme, Sir Graham Watson said: “Some say that Scotland will not become a member of the EU, some others say that Scotland will become a new member and some others say that Scotland will have to re-apply for membership
“You can debate about the legal aspects in many different ways but politically, you cannot throw outside the EU a territory that is already part of the EU.”
President Barroso’s contentious entry into the Scottish independence referendum debate has been labelled by some as being a political rather than official EU position on the matter.
Speaking on BBC’s Politics Scotland show in March, French Socialist MP Axelle Lemaire criticised President Barroso’s actions, saying that they were motivated by a “personal agenda” to become the next secretary general of NATO which would likely require the support of David Cameron on behalf of the UK.