The ongoing spat between Holyrood and Brussels has deepened following news European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso may decide not to meet with deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon to discuss the position of an independent Scotland within Europe.
During an interview with the BBC’s Hardtalk programme on Monday, Barroso made it clear any new, independent country would find itself having to reapply for EU membership. In response, Sturgeon called for a meeting with the EC, making clear the Scottish government’s belief Barroso’s remarks were wrong.
It has now emerged, however, that Barroso might not be prepared to meet with Sturgeon, amidst concerns such discussions would prove to be a political stunt.
Mark Gray, a spokesman for Barroso, is quoted in today’s Herald as saying:
“The president has made clear throughout he was not dealing with a specific situation, be that Scotland or Catalonia or anywhere else. Holding talks would be a political question in itself, we cannot pre-empt his decision.”
It was followed yesterday by a prediction from one think tank that EU member states facing their own independence movements would seek to make the process of Scotland re-joining the EU as formal and lengthy as possible.
Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland yesterday, Dr Daniel Furby of Business for New Europe explained:
“The incentive for countries like Spain, possibly even Italy and possibly Poland is to make the process quite rigorous, quite formal and to take a period of time. So Scotland, they would like to see, have to jump through a certain number of hoops in which to define its future relationship with the European Union.
“What they don’t want there to be is for a precedent for an easy ride, a fast-track for secessionist movements within existing member states.”
Writing for his blog, the Guardian’s Scotland correspondent, Severin Carrell, has suggested the commission is now getting so involved as a result of fears about the impact a wave of independence movements across the continent could have on further integration.
“The unfolding controversy over a future independent Scotland’s status within Europe has reached a crisis point for the Scottish government: in the dispute with commission president José Manuel Barroso, the credibility of a significant chunk of its case is at stake.
“But within this crisis are unanswered, pivotal questions which could allow the first minister, Alex Salmond, some wriggle room. And there is one puzzle: why would the European commission be getting so involved at this stage, two years before the referendum?
“One possible answer to that comes up in a think tank discussion paper published in October by the pro-EU integration European Policy Centre. It says Brussels is unnerved by the dangers an independent Scotland poses to its integration project. It will, the commission fears, simply accelerate a two-tier Europe.”
At the Herald, meanwhile, the ongoing debate over EU membership raises further concerns about the position of an independent Scotland vis-à-vis the euro.
In its editorial the paper explains:
“EU membership is just one of the Nationalists’ assertions that voters are now anxious to interrogate and have pinned down. Another is control over currency. The First Minister confidently assured voters that Scotland, in a sterling Union with the rest of the UK, would be represented on the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee, yet there is no evidence of any discussion about such an arrangement.
“Now the prospect of negotiating from scratch to join the EU throws up the prospect of being required to adopt the euro. While that would probably not happen immediately, it needs to be clarified before the referendum. Just as disconcerting is the prospect of being part of the Schengen agreement which abolished passport controls between 25 European countries but which the UK has not joined.
“Opposition parties claim this could lead to border checks between Scotland and England but there is no consideration of the pros and cons of this and other EU requirements.”
Summing the situation up, the BBC’s Scotland political editor, Brian Taylor, has written:
“So where are we? Where we always were: back with politics – and belief.
“Do you believe that there would be substantial obstacles in the path of continuing EU membership, derived from necessary process and, perhaps, political disquiet about independence among other member states?
“Or do you believe that Scotland – with her oil, fish and renewable energy – would be welcomed within the EU?”
• Watch: EC President Barroso on Scotland: A new state “has to apply for membership” – December 10th, 2012
• Salmond, Scotland and the EU – time for the first minister to finally come clean – December 9th, 2012
• It’s official: Independent Scotland would have to reapply for EU membership – December 7th, 2012
• David Miliband: Scotland can’t just “leave the UK on Friday, join the EU on Monday” – November 24th, 2012
• Advice? What advice? Salmond finds himself in more hot water over EU ‘lies’ – October 29th, 2012