The Referendum on Separation for Scotland: Scotland's Membership of the EU

27th May 2014

Scottish Affairs Committee - Twelfth Report

Today Scotland's interests in the European Union are represented by the UK which, as one of the largest Member States, has the voting power and leverage to influence decisions to the benefit of Scotland. In leaving the UK, a separate Scotland would lose this advantage.

A separate Scotland is likely to have its application to join the EU accepted - but not within the timetable, nor with the terms, that the Scottish Government is proposing. Complex negotiations would be required, both with the UK and the EU, and any agreement would have to be ratified by 28 Member States. Indeed, it is much more likely that a separate Scotland would have an interim period outside the EU, with uncertain interim arrangements, than that the process of joining would be completed within the Scottish Government's self-imposed timetable of 18 months.

The Scottish Government's proposal that Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union could be used to provide for Scottish membership is not supported by any other EU state; senior EU figures have ruled it out and it is opposed by the United Kingdom Government - which would, under this process, have to initiate it. In any case, an Article 48 application would not necessarily be any faster than the accepted accession route under Article 49.

We do not believe it credible that the Scottish Government would be able to achieve the terms of entry that it seeks. Whether in relation to Schengen, justice, payments under the CAP, or a commitment to join the Euro, the Scottish Government does not adequately acknowledge the scale of the difficulty which would be encountered in seeking better terms than have been achieved by other recent applicants. The additional and exceptional demand for the ability to discriminate against UK students with respect to tuition fees would be voted against by the UK Government and is therefore almost certain not to be met. Furthermore, the self-imposed deadline greatly weakens the Scottish Government's position in any negotiations.

We regret that insufficient attention has been paid by the Scottish Government to the need to negotiate the UK's retention of VAT zero rating on a wide range of goods, such as food, children's clothes, books and newspapers. Even the imposition of the EU minimum rate of 5%, rather than the standard rate of 15%, would be a heavy burden on Scottish families.

The Scottish Government does not seem to understand the UK's budget rebate. As a separate Member State, not only would Scotland cease to benefit from the UK rebate (currently worth in the region of £300 million per year to Scotland) but it would have to contribute to it. Together, this would put an additional cost of approximately £900 on Scottish households over the budgetary period.

Thus we believe that the Scottish Government's objectives of achieving the wide range of opt-outs and beneficial special deals which the UK has secured are not credible and, when taken with the restricted timetable, are unachievable.

In these circumstances we believe the Scottish Government has to provide Scottish voters with a much more realistic alternative perspective of how joining the EU would be achieved, and what its likely terms and timetable would be.

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Clare de Mowbray's picture
University of Edinburgh
27th May 2014
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