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The Scottish road to EU membership

by Carlos Closa

Research Area Director  "European, Transnational and Global Governance"

9 September 2014


On 18 th September, Scottish citizens will vote on whether they want to become independent. A key assumption in those favouring independence is that Scotland will remain in the EU. But scholars overwhelmingly agree that a newly independent region, such as Scotland, seceding from a current member state will not automatically become a new EU Member State. Once Scotland or any hypothetically new born European state obtains international recognition, it can apply for EU membership.

The Scottish government has supported the alternative view of negotiating a reform of the TEU in order to include explicit reference to Scotland as an independent state while it is still a part of the UK (the so-called internal enlargement). This would circumvent the costs of fully fledged accession negotiations as a totally independent state. But there are several factors to be taken into account in this alternative scenario. Firstly, negotiation of an EU reform as part of the UK would depend on the British government whose composition will be obviously essential to determine the agenda of the negotiated reform. Given the current mood among British Euroskeptics, strong demands for repatriation of competences and other forms of opt outs may crow the agenda. The likely effect of an increased set of strong demands would be an erosion of the UK bargaining position. This leads to the second factor: once negotiations on reform of the TEU are launched, all other Member States will have a say in the outcome since reform has to be unanimously approved. Some states with their own secessionist issues, such as Spain, might be influenced by their own domestic situation. Other states might take the opportunity to put other reform issues on the agenda. For instance, the German coalition government has aired its will to reinforce economic and monetary union via, for instance, the formalisation in primary legislation of partnership contracts. This will create a very thick agenda which may render difficult an easy agreement on the Scottish issue and may delay the effective accession of Scotland. Additionally to these two specific factors, this scenario may also coincide with a strong pull in the UK for terminating EU membership. Whilst it is difficult to anticipate the full consequences of these two combined events (Scottish independence and British withdrawal), they will be no doubt long lasting for the whole European Union.


Read also

Withdrawal Symptoms, EUI Times (31/07/14)

EU may let Scotland in then close the door to other states , Herald Scotland (26/07/14)


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