Last week saw a landmark intervention by Michael Moore MP, until recently the Secretary of State for Scotland and one of the leaders of the No Campaign. He stated that Scotland’s participation in the European Union would be supported by all member states.
Moore said that he saw “no reason to believe that any country around Europe would have an in-principal objection to any new Member State coming forward”. This interview, given by Michael Moore to the Catalan News Agency, took place just weeks after he was sacked by David Cameron and Nick Clegg. The timing of these comments suggest he has had a conflicting view to his UK colleagues for some time on how to argue the case for a No vote. He was clearly unwilling to push the No Campaign’s scare stories to the point where his personal credibility would be irrevocably damaged. His successor Alistair Carmichael MP will face the same dilemma.
Up until this point, No Campaign figures have spent most of their time issuing scare stories, including the claim that Scotland would face numerous undefined barriers to membership of the EU. Michael Moore’s statement reinforces the growing body of evidence that Scotland’s position within the EU will be improved following independence. It also provides further confidence in Scotland’s overal economic and international position following a Yes vote.
There’s a further irony in these comments, given that Michael Moore and the UK Government remain positioned to easily provide legal certainty on the status of an independent Scotland within the EU. To receive formal legal advice on such matters from Brussels individual Member States must apply to the EU Commission. Scotland cannot ask as it is not yet an individual member state.
Westminster has been criticised by members of the House of Lords for failing to approach the EU for advice. Their hesitancy suggests a fear that the EU response would provide legal certainty for Scotland’s position within the European Union, thereby undermining the claims of the self-styled ‘Project Fear’. Westminster’s wider EU hypocrisy has been untangled by Business for Scotland before.
Strong legal foundations
Michael Moore’s comments are the latest in a line of positive statements from well respected sources relating to Scotland and the European Union.
1) The Law Society of Scotland stated that Scotland already complies with all EU treaties and therefore qualifies “in legal terms, for EU membership in its own right.”
2) German Government advisor Professor Roland Vaubel said that there is “no basis” in European treaties for Scotland’s EU status to change. If Scotland became independent “both would remain members of the European Union”. The German position is highly influential in Brussels.
3) Eamonn Gallagher, former Director General of the European Commission and EC Ambassador to the UN in New York, has said: “Scotland and the rest of the UK would be equally entitled to continue their existing full membership of the EU” (Sunday Herald, 18th February, 2007).
4) Emile Noel, the longest serving Secretary-General of the European Commission said: ”Scottish Independence would create two new member states out of one. They would have equal status with each other and the other states. The remainder of the United Kingdom would not be in a more powerful position than Scotland.”
5) Alexander MacKenzie Stuart, who chaired the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, said “Independence would leave Scotland and something called ‘the rest’ in the same legal boat. If Scotland had to reapply, so would the rest.” (Scotland on Sunday, 1992).
6) Furthermore, there is no procedure to change the status of a country which is already within the EU. Not a single EU Treaty sets-out a process for secession.
1) Statements from Danish officials have also confirmed his view. Both senior politicians and academics state that Scotland would be a welcome member of the EU and would fully qualify under the Copenhagen Treaty criteria. Rusmus Petersen, Foreign Affairs Spokesperson for the Danish Liberals, said that “Scottish membership of the EU would be a mere formality” through a transition that can occur “overnight”. Danish professors commented that Scotland’s continued involvement across NATO, the EU and even as part of the Nordic and Arctic Council would be welcomed by other nations.
Beyond this body of legal opinion, political influences will dominate Scotland’s position within the EU after a Yes vote.
2) There are currently tens of thousands of EU nationals living in Scotland. A smooth transition is therefore necessary to maintain freedom of movement and trade between the people’s of Europe. All 5.2 million Scots are also EU citizens.
3) The business and trading links between Scotland and the EU are mutually beneficial and there is no political imperative for the EU to cause distress to a newly independent Scotland or the economies of other EU nations.
4) The political direction of the EU has been in favour of expansion. The EU has grown from 6 members states in the 1950s (as the ‘European Community’) to 28 states as of 2013. There is a great deal of political support to expand the EU further to include Turkey and other Balkan nations. Enlargement not ‘barrier building’ is the political mission of the EU. An oil-rich, renewables-rich, whisky-rich, export-rich and innovative Scotland will be more that welcomed into the multilateral organisation.
5) Alyn Smith MEP made this point in the European Parliament. The members of the Parliament then applauded the prospect of an independent Scotland. Scotland would be constructive member of the EU – looking to protect Scotland’s interests and find common ground. Westminster is increasing isolated in Europe – driven by eurosceptics to the margins of international decision-making. Members of the European Parliament took Scotland’s side.
Benefits for Scotland of EU membership
As a result of independence, Scotland will have a far stronger voice in international institutions like the EU. Immediately Scotland’s representation in the European Parliament will double. Being an independent member state is crucial to the EU framework. Scotland will be represented at the EU Council of Ministers after 2016. This means Scotland can represent its industries and interests at the top table of European politics. Issues like the negotiation of EU fishing quotas are conducted via Westminster, which has left Scottish fishing communities marginalised and frustrated.
An independent Scotland can also propose a fairer funding settlement. Recent figures revealed that Scotland receives the lowest agricultural funding support of any nation in whole European Union. Without a voice in EU forums, this is no surprise. With independence, this can change.
The evidence supports Scotland’s continued membership of the EU following a Yes vote. There are clear legal foundations to this claim.
Michael Moore’s recent admission reveals a wider truth. Scotland’s membership of the European Union is in Scotland’s and Europe’s political interests. Scotland will negotiate improved terms of membership and this will happen from within the European Union during the independence transition period from September 2014 to March 2016. There are practical reasons of mutual interest for why all parties in the UK and EU will desire a smooth transition; and there are political opportunities for Scotland to get a better deal than it does now.
As Westminster’s EU referendum and UKiP’s rising political influence in England risks isolating Scotland from the world’s largest trading market, there is only one way Scotland can guarantee its continued membership of the European Union and a greatly enhanced role in the global community – by voting Yes on September 18th 2014.