Prime Minister called on to correct inaccurate Juncker remarks

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  By a Newsnet reporter
 
Prime Minister David Cameron and former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy have been called on to correct statements and apologise to the House of Commons, after both claimed remarks by the EC President Jean-Claude Juncker were a reference to the independence referendum.
 
Both men were taking part in today’s Prime Minister’s Questions when Mr Kennedy suggested Mr Juncker had said an independent Scotland would face a five year wait to get back into the EU.

Making reference to the independence referendum, Mr Kennedy said of Mr Juncker’s remarks: “Shouldn’t the Scots voters bear those words in mind.”

Responding, Mr Cameron agreed and claimed Mr Juncker’s comments were “… very important in the context of the Scottish referendum debate.”

The exchange between the former Lib Dem leader and the Conservative Prime Minister was immediately condemned by SNP MP Angus Robertson who called a point of order and demanded both correct their statements, which he called ‘bogus’.

Addressing the chamber, Mr Robertson said: “Charles Kennedy’s question and the prime minister’s response must be corrected at the earliest opportunity – as they continue  to refer to something that has been completely denied by Mr Juncker’s spokeswoman as having anything to do with Scotland.”

Yesterday, Jean-Claude Juncker, who replaced Jose Manuel Barroso as head of the EC, said: “There will be no new enlargement in the next five years,”.

He added: “The EU needs to mark a pause in its enlargement process so that we can consolidate what has been done with 28,”

Immediately, leading members of the anti-independence campaign were claiming the remarks were a reference to an independent Scotland, and that a Yes vote would mean five years in the Euro wilderness.

However within hours of the claims, an official from Mr Juncker’s office told a BBC reporter that the comments were not in relation to Scotland.

Mr Robertson added: “The clarification could not have been clearer. I have now raised a point of order in the House to ask both Mr Kennedy and the prime minister to correct the record, withdraw the bogus assertions and apologise to the chamber.”

Newsnet Scotland can also reveal that EU sources have today told us that Mr Juncker’s remarks ‘clearly’ had nothing to do with Scotland – and that, on the issue of Scottish independence, they will ‘cross that bridge when they come to it’.

The intervention of the EU officials will be seen by some as a sign of the irritation felt in Europe at the attempt to draw Jean-Claude Juncker into the independence referendum and the misrepresentation of his remarks.

Earlier Mr Juncker’s official spokeswoman, Natasha Bertraud, told Newsnet Scotland that the speech from the EC President was not in fact new.

She said: “Mr. Juncker’s presented his political guidelines for the next European Commission in front of the Parliament yesterday.  It is in this context that he said that, after 13 enlargements in the space of 10 years, there will be no further enlargements of the European Union for the next 5 years.

“This is indeed not unexpected as this formed part of his electoral programme during the campaign (see juncker.epp.eu).”

On the independence referendum, Ms Bertraud added: “As for Mr Juncker’s position on Scotland, he has made this clear on numerous occasions – this is an internal matter for the UK and he will respect the result of the Scottish referendum.”

Commenting, Angus Robertson said: “It took a phone call to Mr Juncker’s office from the BBC yesterday to establish that he was not referring to Scotland.  Simple as that.

“To continue repeating and repeating the assertion that it does – does not make it true – although that has become a hallmark of the No campaign’s strategy.  The No campaign are clearly guilty of distorting the newly-elected European Commission President’s words to suite their ends – which is in itself a very serious matter – and we have also asked them to withdraw these bogus assertions and apologise.

“With Mr Cameron’s appointments in the reshuffle it is even clearer that the only threat to Scotland’s place in Europe is a Westminster in/out referendum and now – for the first time ever – the UK has a Foreign Secretary who has advocated withdrawal from the EU.

“Only a Yes vote guarantees Scotland remaining part of the EU – and with the clout of full member state status to protect and promote Scottish national interests.”