David Miliband yesterday warned an independent Scotland would have to “take its place in the queue” if it wanted to join the EU, and couldn’t just “leave the union on Friday, join the European Union on Monday”.
He told ScotsPolitics.com:
“This argument about Europe I’m quite interested in, because I’ve sat in European enlargement negotiations… and there are 35 chapters of EU legislation that you have to go through, and every line you have to ask ‘does the entry of this country change it?’
“And then you get down to voting, because in the Council of Ministers, every country has a certain amount of votes – so when you get a new member you have to change the voting weights; and critically, you change the amount of money that different countries pay when there’s a new member.
“So you can see, there’s 7 or 8 countries in the queue already – and Scotland would have to take its place in the queue of negotiating its entry.
“So one of the things that concerns me if you vote for independence, is that you leave the UK, but you’ll be in limbo in Europe – it’s not like ‘leave the union on Friday, join the European Union on Monday’.”
In the interview, Miliband – speaking after a meeting with students at the University of Stirling – also reiterated the challenges facing Labour, following the defeats in the 2010 general election and 2011 Scottish elections.
“Labour suffered a very bad defeat in 2010, and it’s too easy to forget that. We got 29% of the vote, and… that was the worst election we’d had in 80 years – and I think that puts it in very stark terms…
“I was in the advisory team that wrote the manifesto that committed us to devolution and then delivered devolution – and the way devolution was crafted is that no party was ever gonna get a majority on their own. And actually, the SNP got a majority in May 2011, and Labour got a very bad result.
“But we shouldn’t be in the least bit sanguine or complacent about what that implies as quite a big mountain to climb.”
On Labour’s “mountain to climb” in Scotland, Miliband backed leader Johann Lamont’s controverial comments on universal benefits, in which she attacked the “cynical tricks” of Alex Salmond’s “dishonest government”, compared his fiscal indiscipline to Mitt Romney, and said Scotland “cannot be the only something-for-nothing country in the world”.
“I think that Johann Lamont made a really important point, which is that you can only have free prescriptions if you’re willing to sack 3,000 nurses.
“Politics is about choices, and just saying something’s free is not enough. Nothing is free – everything has to be paid for somewhere, so I think she was making a really important point…
“Look – on ‘free prescriptions’, on the tuition fees, money is being spent – and it’s either leaving cuts elsewhere or leaving black holes elsewhere – and I think that’s a really important point that people have to understand.”
Salmond may find it harder to dismiss Miliband’s comments as he contemptuosly does Lamont’s.