SNP EU membership row: Barroso could shun talks with Sturgeon


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.

Nicola-Sturgeon-Jose-Manuel-Barroso
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.

Citing research by the European Policy Centre, published in October, Carrell observed:

“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?”

See also:

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 cleanDecember 9th, 2012

It’s official: Independent Scotland would have to reapply for EU membershipDecember 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

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  • Selohesra

    It gives hope to the English that they too could vote to be independent of UK and thus no longer be bound by EU – reclaiming our fishing waters, saving fortune in contributions, defending our financial institutions and no longer having to enact daft EU laws & regulations. Once Scotland goes there will be little reason for England to stay.
    Good luck Scotland – we are with you

  • Andy Harris

    Even if England/rest of the ‘U’K became an independent state, the Wastemonster/Shitehall crowd would rush its application to Brussels. The EU would approve that application on the nod, because it needs all the tax from England. The taxpayers of England probably get the least bang for their buck of all the EU nations.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/siliconglen Craig Cockburn

    I am a fan of Europe. I am growing to be a less of a fan of the EU. It has helped with peace, it has opened borders, it helps minority languages and it has provided something of a check to a Westminster parliament that sometimes gets a bit carried away with itself. I am however completely unimpressed with the EUs ability to sort out the financial mess, the EUs ability to handle itself democratically with elected officials, the EUs ability to realise not all of Europe wants all of Europe to give control over to Brussels in a single tier. In short, Europe is pulling in two different directions. Switzerland and Norway have shown it is possible to be successful in Europe and not be part of the EU machine and the UK has decided not to join the Euro. The president of the EU needs to stop thinking he is the president of all of Europe and to stop interfering in democratic change within European countries, movements which the EU is cynically putting down and which it would probably support as part of democratic reform if they weren’t on its own doorstep. There are no checks and balances for the ever growing EU machine in power, no simple process for leaving, no simple process for a new state to have the same status as an existing state such as the UK, no simple process for a state to democratically split. Personally I wouldn’t shed too many tears if the UK and Scotland left the EU and other countries left with us. The Nordic countries have shown that it’s perfectly possible to cooperate closely economically and politically without having some remote unelected mandarin telling you what to do.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/siliconglen Craig Cockburn

    I am a fan of Europe. I am growing to be a less of a fan of the EU. It has helped with peace, it has opened borders, it helps minority languages and it has provided something of a check to a Westminster parliament that sometimes gets a bit carried away with itself. I am however completely unimpressed with the EUs ability to sort out the financial mess, the EUs ability to handle itself democratically with elected officials, the EUs ability to realise not all of Europe wants all of Europe to give control over to Brussels in a single tier. In short, Europe is pulling in two different directions. Switzerland and Norway have shown it is possible to be successful in Europe and not be part of the EU machine and the UK has decided not to join the Euro. The president of the EU needs to stop thinking he is the president of all of Europe and to stop interfering in democratic change within European countries, movements which the EU is cynically putting down and which it would probably support as part of democratic reform if they weren’t on its own doorstep. There are no checks and balances for the ever growing EU machine in power, no simple process for leaving, no simple process for a new state to have the same status as an existing state such as the UK, no simple process for a state to democratically split. Personally I wouldn’t shed too many tears if the UK and Scotland left the EU and other countries left with us. The Nordic countries have shown that it’s perfectly possible to cooperate closely economically and politically without having some remote unelected mandarin telling you what to do.