I know you all read the Financial Times and will have already seen this article but it may be worth showing to the household staff. If your servants are doubtful about our entry to the EU, this demonstrates how the doomsayers could be wrong. The judge mentioned is a distinguished Scot who has more detailed legal knowledge of the institutions and of the processes than just about anybody else alive and certainly a lot more than a right wing, anti self determination Spanish politician.
By Mure Dickie in Edinburgh and James Fontanella-Khan in Brussels
EU states and institutions would be legally obliged to launch negotiations on Scotland’s status in the EU if Scottish nationalists win next year’s vote on independence from the UK, according to a former judge at the European Court of Justice.
Talks could not be delayed until after Scotland’s separation from the UK because this would lead to the “totally unacceptable situation” of a part of the EU being plunged into legal limbo, said Sir David Edward, who was British judge at the Luxembourg court from 1992 to 2004.
◦ Whether and how an independent Scotland could retain EU membership has become a key battleground in campaigning ahead of next September’s referendum.
The issue is also of interest to other EU states with independence-minded regions such as Spain.
There are no provisions in EU treaties for the separation of part of a member state, but Scotland’s governing Scottish National party said in a white paper last week that membership could be negotiated ahead of its proposed independence day of March 24 2016.
José Manuel Barroso, European Commission president, has said an independent Scotland would automatically find itself outside the EUand would have to apply to rejoin as a new state.
The warning was reiterated last week by Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s prime minister, whose government is facing calls for independence from Catalan nationalists.
Sir David argues that it would be against the spirit and intention of EU treaties to deprive part of the union and its citizens of membership. Doing so would cast into doubt a complex web of economic and social relationships ranging from fishing rights to student exchange programmes.
“If nothing is done by March 2016, then there is a totally unacceptable situation,” said Sir David, a Scot who says he favours remaining within the UK. “All the recent discussion presupposes that nothing happens until the moment of separation. My simple argument is that is absurd.”
“There is in EU law an obligation on the UK and all other EU member states and institutions to negotiate the terms of the relationship between Scotland, the rest of the UK and the EU after Scottish independence,” he said.
Mr Barroso has not commented on the practicalities of cutting Scotland out of the EU, but some European law experts also believe an independent Scotland could achieve near-seamless accession resulting from negotiations started well before independence day.
All the recent discussion presupposes that nothing happens until the moment of separation. My simple argument is that is absurd
Views of how this could be achieved vary widely. Sir David says the correct approach would be negotiating a change to EU treaties that could allow Scotland continuing membership. The UK government would have to represent both Scotland and the remaining UK in such talks.
Many officials and experts in Brussels dismiss such a route, saying treaty change would be legally and practically impossible and Scotland would have to apply as a new member.
However, some Brussels experts say that with political will, informal negotiations following the referendum could allow the terms of EU entry to be agreed before independence.
“It’s certainly very challenging but not impossible [to hold informal talks before Scotland becomes independent], said a senior EU official, who described such a situation as “uncharted territory”.
Any process of EU membership for Scotland would require agreement of all 28 member states, which many EU officials say could be impossible as the Spanish government would regard quick Scottish membership as an encouragement to Catalonia to follow a similar path.
However, Spain has stopped short of saying it would veto membership for Scotland and has highlighted that Scottish independence would come with the approval of the UK government, which has endorsed next year’s referendum. Madrid says Catalonia is constitutionally barred from leaving Spain.