10 December 2012

Unionist caution needed on Barosso EU entry comments

I'm sure the champagne corks are popping in the 'Better Together' HQ after European President Jose Manuel Barosso said that newly independent states would have to reapply for EU membership.

I'm sure he is right that states created by that secession from a larger entity would have to apply to join the EU.  But that's not the case if Scotland votes for independence.

The United Kingdom is the entity that has EU membership and it was created by the Act of Union in 1707. If Scotland votes for independence then it is surely arguable that both remaining parts - Scotland and the rump state (as it were) are new states and both either remain EU members or neither do.  Scotland is an equal part of the union - as is England - and there can be no UK without both parts.

Now I'm not a lawyer, but I can imagine the legal wrangles over this issue going on for years.  And at the end of the day they are diversion from the main debate.  And that is as much a 'heart' issue as it is one based on logic or legal argument.  So the Better Together campaign shouldn't celebrate too soon - they need to make a case for maintaining the union based on values and positive principles - which so far they have struggled to do.


  1. The "Kingdom of Great Britain" was created in 1707. The United Kingdom was created in 1801, with the union with Ireland. Just because original parts of the UK leave doesn't mean that it's dissolved. An Act of Parliament would determine the domestic legal consequences of Scottish separation, just as an Act in 1922 removed Ireland from the UK (Northern Ireland was briefly made part of the Irish Free State, in a political exercise to avoid partitioning Ireland, but it activated its statutory right to rejoin the UK within days).

  2. Thanks Christopher - you make the point that the UK could exist without Scotland, but as I say in my post this is exactly the sort of issue that keeps lawyers in the style they are accustomed to.

    The issue is ultimately a red herring. It would be unlikely that Scotland (and or the 'rump') would not be offered EU membership post divorce - so ultimately the reasons for voting yes or no will lie elsewhere.