Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has warned that the Tories have
created 'uncertainty' over Britain's EU membership
Scottish independence: Cameron ‘creating uncertainty’ over jobs and EU membership for Scots
by Jamie Mann
Nick Clegg has warned Prime Minister David Cameron that creating "a prolonged period of uncertainty” over the UK's position in the European Union could have a “chilling effect” on jobs.
The deputy prime minister’s warning over ‘uncertainty’ in terms of Britain’s EU status however also exposes the profound impact it will have on next year’s independence referendum as Scotland’s EU membership post-independence is hotly debated.
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Speaking on the BBC’s Today radio programme, the deputy prime minister said: “I don't think it's wise to add to that with a degree of uncertainty which will have a chilling effect on jobs and growth.”
Mr Clegg said that legislation was ready for an EU referendum if more powers are passed to Brussels.
The SNP agreed with the Lib Dem leader but said that the uncertainty is the result of the coalition government picking an “unnecessary fight”.
Westminster Leader for the SNP Angus Robertson said:
“Nick Clegg has correctly identified that uncertainty over the UK’s relationship with our EU neighbours is hugely damaging to economic prospects and jobs, but the fact of the matter is that this uncertainty is only being caused by the coalition government's determination to pick an unnecessary fight.
David Cameron is expected to announce future plans for the UK’s EU position on Friday.
Impact on independence debate
However, uncertainty about Britain’s place in the EU will also be a key issue ahead of the Scottish independence referendum next year.
The SNP, who are leading the campaign for an independent Scotland, insist that the country would remain in the EU having been a member state as part of the UK for 40 years.
Scottish Ministers say that Scotland would negotiate its EU membership terms along with Westminster between 2014 and 2016 as the country would still be a part of the EU and so negotiating from within.
The threat of the UK leaving the EU would leave Scots in the position of needing to vote for independence should Scottish citizens and businesses wish to avoid the risk of losing EU membership.
However, key figures are split on the issue of an independent Scotland’s place in the EU. The president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso told the BBC’s Hardtalk programme in December that any new state outside EU treaties would have to reapply for membership.
Conversely, writing on the Scottish Constitutional Futures website, former European Court judge, Professor Sir David Edward said: "The outcome of such negotiations, unless they failed utterly, would be agreed amendment of the existing Treaties, not a new Accession Treaty."
Reacting to the rise of Eurosceptic party UKIP, the Conservatives have faced increasing political pressure to hold a referendum on EU membership. For the SNP, who would seek to keep Scotland in Europe, UKIP have opened up an opportunity to criticise the “uncertainty” of the UK’s EU future, which Nick Clegg claims has been generated by his Conservative colleagues in the coalition government.
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