(London – PR) The Foreign Secretary’s letter highlights a number of issues which voters in Scotland need answers to in relation to the stated terms of EU membership which the Scottish Government has said it wants to secure – which are at odds with the EU’s own rules of membership.
The terms of EU membership which your Government has said it will seek to secure for an independent Scotland are at odds with the EU’s own rules of membership. Your forthcoming trip to Brussels should be an opportunity to seek clarity on a number of key issues, which voters in September’s referendum need better information on:
1. As relevant EU institutions and authorities have already confirmed, the EU accession process is explicitly provided for in Article 49 of the Treaty of the European Union.
All 28 Member States would have to agree to any use of Article 48 by consensus, and the Commission and European Parliament would also have to be consulted. What guarantees have you received from Member States that they would agree to Article 48 being used in the unprecedented way you have suggested?
2. Your desire for Scotland to become an independent state which is a member of the EU within 18 months of a ‘yes’ vote has been presented to voters in Scotland as a certainty. The truth is that this is far from certain. What is your Plan B if you fail to meet your self-imposed deadline?
3. There would be no Scottish ‘share’ of the UK rebate left, post-independence, and CAP budgets for 2014-20 are already agreed. Scotland would contribute to the UK’s rebate, like other Member States, and any extra money for Scottish farmers would be at the expense of farmers in other Member States. How many existing Member States have indicated they would be willing to lose money, to support an independent Scotland’s position?
4. How will you convince all 28 Member States to unanimously agree to grant special opt-outs to Scotland (on the euro, or membership of the Schengen area), which all recent Member States have had to adopt themselves?
5. EU legislation requires occupational pensions operating across borders within the European single market to be fully funded at all times. How would an independent Scotland cope with the challenge that its businesses would face as huge pension liabilities have to be paid overnight? Scotland’s negotiations to join the EU are likely to be complex and long and the outcome would certainly prove less advantageous than the status quo. People in Scotland deserve to have the available facts ahead of making one of the most important political decisions in the history of our union. I recommend the Scotland analysis series of papers, including Scotland analysis: EU and international issues, which set out the detail on the main areas of debate. Scotland benefits from the UK’s strong voice in Europe and the UK has a proven track record in delivering for Scottish interests in the EU.
The cooperation pointed to by your Government in its White Paper as the basis of the way forward is no substitute for the union. The people of Scotland would be swapping the guaranteed negotiating power of one of the EU’s most powerful states for the hope of goodwill from 28 others – and with a much higher price tag – a poor substitute indeed. Text ends Notes for Editors Scotland analysis: Europe and International Issues The UK delivers for Scotland at an international level
• Scotland benefits from the UK’s extensive, effective and highly regarded diplomatic network in 267 Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates around the world. The UK is one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and the only state which is a member of the EU, NATO, G7, G8, G20 and the Commonwealth.
• The UK works internationally to promote and protect the economic interests of businesses based in Scotland – for example defending Scotch whisky against counterfeits, discriminatory or excessive taxation, trade barriers and other restrictions. Scottish businesses benefit from the active support of UK Trade and Investment’s (UKTI) 169 offices in over 100 countries.
• As a new state, an independent Scotland would have to apply for membership of the international institutions and organisations it both wished and was eligible to join. The UK would have no obligation, as it does now, to negotiate for and deliver on Scotland’s interests. Scotland’s benefits from the UK’s strong voice in Europe
• The UK exerts its influence in Europe on behalf of Scotland on a whole host of issues of particular interest to people and businesses in Scotland, such as budget contributions, fisheries, agricultural subsidies and structural funds.
• The EU is a treaty-based organisation and the UK – not Scotland – is the contracting party to the Treaties of the EU. Independent legal opinion sought and published by the UK Government indicates that its EU membership would continue on existing terms in the event of Scottish independence. That includes important opt-outs allowing the UK to keep the pound and control of its borders and immigration policy, and a rebate from the EU budget.
• An independent Scotland’s membership of the EU, and any special arrangements, would be a matter of negotiation with the EU institutions and unanimous agreement by existing Member States. Negotiations on the terms of EU membership for an independent Scottish state are therefore likely to be lengthy and complex. Scottish taxpayers currently derive a substantial benefit from the UK’s EU budget rebate
• The UK’s EU budget rebate is worth over £3 billion to the UK tax payer each year. No other Member State has negotiated its own budgetary correction on accession. Instead, as a new Member State, Scotland would have to contribute to the UK rebate like other Member States. The rebate could not be ‘shared’. It is not a constant, annual lump sum amount – any change in the UK’s shares in the EU’s economy and receipts (e.g. as a result of Scottish independence) would automatically be reflected in the rebate calculation. The new amount would relate to the continuing UK, excluding Scotland, with no ‘Scottish share’ of the UK rebate left.
• Scotland would receive €228 million less in structural funds over the next seven years if it were an independent state. On CAP an independent Scottish state’s receipts are uncertain and would depend on the terms of accession, which would have to be agreed by all 28 Member States. Even in the best case scenario, every extra euro in CAP receipts for Scottish farmers would cost Scottish taxpayers over €3.00.
• Again, even in the best case scenario for an independent Scottish state, its gains and losses on receipts would be dwarfed by the impact of losing the benefit of the UK’s rebate. An independent Scottish state’s net contribution would be at least around €2.2 billion (€840 per household) worse over 2014-20 than as part of the UK.