Labour MP dismisses comments from Irish Minister over independent Scotland EU membership

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  By G.A.Ponsonby
 
A Scottish Labour MP has dismissed comments from Ireland’s European Minister after she insisted that an independent Scotland would not be forced out of the European Union.
 
Michael Connarty, who is the MP for Linlithgow and East Falkirk, claimed that an independent Scotland would require a new application to re-join the EU and that the country might find itself waiting in line behind other countries who had already applied.

The Labour MP was responding to a statement from Irish European Minister Lucinda Creighton, after she was asked to clarify comments she made in an interview with the BBC.

In the interview, Ms Creighton was heard to say that a newly independent Scotland would have to “apply” for EU membership.

However, in response to questions from Newsnet Scotland, Ms Creighton said: “I was asked about the future of negotiations with the EU in the event that Scotland votes for independence.  I thought that my reply was largely in line with that of the Scottish Government.  I certainly did not at any stage suggest that Scotland could, should or would be thrown out of the EU.  Scottish people are citizens of Europe.”

Despite this clarification, Mr Connarty, speaking in a radio debate on Friday claimed that the Irish Minister had said that an independent Scotland would find itself out of the EU.

“The Irish Minister was quite clear and she was correct, Scotland would have to leave the EU and negotiate entry.” he told a radio audience.

When presented with Ms Creighton’s clarification comments in which she insisted she had said no such thing, Mr Connarty told Newsnet Scotland:

“Should the very unlikely situation come about that Scotland’s residents choose to separate from the rest of the UK the fact will be that Scotland will be a new applicant country for EU membership.  All the spin from Angus Robertson will not make the conditions of entry any easier, nor will it guarantee Scotland will be allowed to move ahead of other countries already in entry negotiations.”

The Labour MP also repeated accusations made by Labour’s Scottish leader Johann Lamont that the Irish Minister had been “bullied” by SNP supporters.

However Mr Connarty refused to provide any evidence of bullying, in the communication to Newsnet Scotland, he added: “Don’t bother to reply – we Scots get enough false propaganda from SNP sources without you lot adding to it.”

The statement from a senior Labour MP, which clearly challenges the views of the Irish Minister, will add to the growing controversy that has followed Ms Creighton’s initial interview with BBC Scotland. 

Ms Creighton claimed her original comments given to BBC Scotland reporter Raymond Buchanan had been “misconstrued or perhaps manipulated by some quarters” that they had been “spun” and “seem to have been presented or taken out of context.”

However Mr Connarty was defiant in his reply to Newsnet Scotland.  Refusing to withdraw the claim that Ms Creighton supported his views on EU memberhsip, the Labour MP also claimed that independence could lead to “problems” and “delays” over EU fishing negotiations.

He said: “If Scotland, for example tries to repatriate sole or even shared competence on fishing (apart from the new regional agreement won by the UK Government) there would be real problems and even delays.”

However, Newsnet Scotland understands that the SNP has never called for sole competence on fishing and contrary to Mr Connarty’s claim that the UK government has “won” a new agreement, further agreement has not yet been decided by the EU on regional control, although current signs are positive.

The Labour MP also questioned whether the recent cooperation from the Libyans over the Lockerbie investigation would have been achieved had Scotland been independent, something that many may find bizarre:

He said: “Does anyone really think as a separate country Scotland could have won the concessions on the Lockerbie inquiry from Libya that the UK recently won?”

 

The communication between the Labour MP and Newsnet Scotland can be seen in full below:

Our email to Michael Connarty:

Hello Mr Connarty
 
Following your appearance on Brian Taylor’s Big Debate on BBC Radio Scotland where you claimed that Irish European Minister Lucinda Creighton had said that a newly independent Scotland would be out of the European Union, we have copied Ms Creighton’s email to us which clarifies her stance.
 
Ms Creighton’s email to us followed her interview on the BBC.  We would draw your attention to the section in bold and would welcome any response from yourself.
 
Kind Regards
NNS

Response from Lucinda Creighton to Newsnet Scotland [Sentence in bold is our emphasis]:

Many thanks for your email. It certainly was not my intention to intervene in the Scottish debate about the future of your country.  As I stated clearly to the BBC (though perhaps they did not show it) this is a question exclusively for the Scottish people and I fully respect that fact.  

I was asked about the future of negotiations with the EU in the event that Scotland votes for independence.  I thought that my reply was largely in line with that of the Scottish Government.  I certainly did not at any stage suggest that Scotland could, should or would be thrown out of the EU.  Scottish people are citizens of Europe. 

I did answer the question about hypothetical negotiations with the EU.  I think it is clear that a newly independent state would have to (and would have the right to and indeed should) negotiate the terms of membership, as they would undoubtedly be somewhat different to the existing terms.  I did say that this would take some time, which I expect it would.  I did go on to say that a newly independent Scotland would be welcome as an EU partner (and I think that applies to all EU member states including Ireland).

My understanding is that the Scottish Government has already committed to a negotiation with the EU between 2014 and 2016, if you vote for independence in 2014.  If my interview suggested something other than that, this was not my intention.  I think my comments have been misconstrued – if so I sincerely regret this.

As SNP Westminster Leader, Angus Robertson said ‘Negotiations on the terms of membership would take place in the period between the referendum and the planned date of independence’, and that ‘The EU would adopt a simplified procedure for the negotiations, not the traditional procedure followed for the accession of non-member countries’.”

I think that sums up the situation quite well.

I hope that this clarifies my position.

Warm regards,
Lucinda Creighton

Reply from Michael Connarty MP to Newsnet Scotland:

So – the SNP cyber bullies are even bullying Ministers of other small countries.  Even this little attempt at muddying the waters again will not change the reality.

Should the very unlikely situation come about that Scotland’s residents choose to separate from the rest of the UK the fact will be that Scotland will be a new applicant country for EU membership.  All the spin from Angus Robertson will not make the conditions of entry any easier, nor will it guarantee Scotland will be allowed to move ahead of other countries already in entry negotiations.

If Scotland, for example tries to repatriate sole or even shared competence on fishing (apart from the new regional agreement won by the UK Government) there would be real problems and even delays.

Does anyone really think as a separate country Scotland could have won the concessions on the Lockerbie inquiry from Libya that the UK recently won?

Don’t bother to reply – we Scots get enough false propaganda from SNP sources without you lot adding to it.

Regards,
Michael Connarty MP