Scottish independence: Are EU in or are EU out?

Scottish independence: Are EU in or are EU out?
Scottish independence: Are EU in or are EU out?
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All Britons may soon know if they will be outside of the EU after FoI ruling

Scottish independence: Are EU in or are EU out?

 

by Karla Healion

Scotland and and the rest of the UK (rUK) may find out soon if they will remain inside the European Union if Scotland votes for independence thanks to a Freedom of Information order.

The Scottish Government is being compelled, under FoI laws, to reveal whether or not it sought legal advice regarding an independent Scotland’s position in terms of EU membership. The order will break a deadlock whereby the UK Government is also refusing to release the advice it claims to have received and from which source.

 

Information Commissioner Rosemary Agnew told First Minister Alex Salmond that he and his Government have six weeks to disclose any legal details or advice they received on the matter.

 

Previously the Scottish National Party (SNP) Government refused to reveal such information claiming that an independent Scotland would automatically become an EU member, without having to reapply for membership as a ‘new’ state.

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However, recent soundings from the EU suggest that is also entirely possible that the rest of the UK (rUK) post-independence could find itself in the same uncertain position, as rUK would also become a different state from the one it is today – one composed of four territories.

 

Given the nature of such advice it will almost certainly include what status rUK would have in relation to EU membership too and so the rUK which would comprise England, Wales and Northern Ireland will soon know if it will be expected to reapply for EU membership when Scotland becomes an independent state.

 

Regarding the Scottish and rUK situation, the European Commission previously stated that “the terms and result of any future referendum are unknown, as is the nature of the possible future relationships between the parties concerned and between those parties and European Union partners”.

 

So it is not legally clear whether an independent Scotland or the rUK would automatically remain in the EU or have to go through the accession process as new EU members, but this statement suggests that the European Commission would treat both ‘new’ states equally in such an event.

 

A report by the House of Commons Library titled ‘Scotland, independence and the EU’ says that “nothing in the EU Treaties sets out what would happen in the event of part of a Member State becoming independent”.

 

The report suggests that it is the nature of the break-up which informs the position held by the post-independence states in the EU.

 

It says that if the UK is considered the “continuing state” Scotland may need to reapply, whereas if the break-up is one of “separation” then both states would remain members, and finally if the break-up is one of “dissolution” then both states would need to re-apply for EU membership.

 

As the European Commission has so far remained somewhat coy about these circumstances, who might decide the outcome or interpret which kind of break-up had occurred?

 

“There is no clear method of determining which of these possibilities would apply” according to the report, “it could be negotiated between the parties before independence. If there were a dispute, the International Court of Justice could be called upon to give an opinion or a judgment”.

 

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