Sunday

22nd Oct 2017

British jurists: independent Scotland would lose EU status

  • Scottish and British flags - Czechoslovakia had to renegotiate 31 treaties and 2,000 sub-agreements when it split in two (Photo: The Laird of Oldham)

A legal opinion published by the British government says that if Scotland splits from the UK it would also lose its EU membership.

The 111-page paper, put out on Monday (11 February), also notes that if the EU accepted Scotland as a new member, it would probably be forced to join the euro, it would lose its part of the UK rebate in the EU budget, and if it joined the EU's passport-free Schengen area, the UK would impose passport controls on the new British-Scottish border.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

It adds that Scotland would have to apply to join other multinational bodies, such as the International Monetary Fund, Nato and the UN, with no guarantee of a place.

The paper, based on an analysis by law professors James Crawford from Cambridge University and Alan Boyle from the University of Edinburgh, comes ahead of a Scottish referendum on independence next year.

It is set to make interesting reading in Catalonia, which aims to hold a vote also in 2014 on splitting from Spain.

Crawford and Boyle warn that: "There is no clear precedent for a metropolitan part of an EU member state becoming independent and then either claiming automatic membership or seeking in its own right to join the EU … This means that the following discussion must necessarily be somewhat speculative."

But they add: "On the face of the EU treaties and other indications, it seems likely that Scotland would be required to join the EU as a new member state."

They note "this is not to suggest that it is inconceivable for Scotland automatically to be an EU member … [but] it is not required as a matter of international law, nor, at least on its face, by the EU legal order."

They also say that even if Scotland kept EU law on its books "it would not cause Scotland or its citizens to have any rights or obligations under the EU treaties."

"There is no rule that, for example, it would somehow automatically be entitled to the UK's opt-outs from the euro or justice and home affairs. The terms of accession would have to be agreed with other member states."

British officials in their accompanying analysis added that Scotland would not just lose EU membership, but also its very statehood, if it split.

"In the eyes of the world and in law, Scotland would become an entirely new state … Scotland would be required to apply to and/or negotiate to become a member of whichever international organisations it wished to join," they said.

They noted that it would have to redraft "thousands of international treaties and agreements to which the UK is currently party and which would default to the continuing UK."

They also raised the spectre of border controls for the first time in centuries on the British mainland.

"As the UK has no intention of joining the Schengen area, this would involve border controls between Scotland and the continuing UK," they said.

For her part, Nicola Sturgeon, the deputy leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party, gave an early counter-blast on BBC radio the same day.

"These are matters that will be settled not by law but by negotiation and agreement," she said.

She indicated that the tone of the British analysis suggests London would try to use its power in the EU to stop Scotland from getting in on good terms.

"If the UK government is really saying that they would, in the event of a Yes vote [on Scottish secession], go out of their way to make life difficult for Scotland, not only is that very arrogant but it would also put them in a position of arguing against their own interest," she added.

Opinion

Pro-independence surge in Scotland

Speculation has been rife ever since elections for Scotland's autonomous parliament on 5 May that the landslide obtained by the Scottish National Party will create an unstoppable momentum leading to the break-up of the United Kingdom, writes Tom Gallagher.

Scottish EU membership is 'no formality'

The rest of the UK should support a 'fast-tracked' application for an independent Scotland to join the EU, according to a report published Wednesday by MPs.

EU agencies defend research ahead of glyphosate vote

As the renewal of the weedkiller glyphosate is a hot potato on the EU agenda, with a vote in the Parliament on Thursday, the role of two closely-involved EU agencies has come under scrutiny.

Europeans more positive about EU, survey shows

On balance, 55 percent of British respondents said the UK had benefited from EU membership. Among all European respondents, 47 percent said their voice counted in the EU.

News in Brief

  1. Rajoy to trigger Article 155 on Saturday in Catalan crisis
  2. EU conducts unannounced inspection of German car firm
  3. Lithuania calls for new EU energy laws
  4. EU leaders aim for December for defence cooperation
  5. Juncker says hands tied on Russia pipeline
  6. Czechs set to elect billionaire Andrej Babis
  7. Italian regions hold referendums on more autonomy
  8. EU leaders refuse to mediate Catalonia conflict

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Jinping Proposes Stronger Global Security Governance at Interpol Assembly
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  3. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  4. European Jewish CongressBulgaria Applauded for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  5. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  6. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  9. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  10. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  11. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  12. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!

Latest News

  1. The mysterious German behind Orban's Russian deals
  2. Mogherini urged to do more on Russian propaganda
  3. Turkey funding cuts signal EU mood shift
  4. Posted workers top EU agenda This Week
  5. Leaders lobby to host EU agencies at summit's margins
  6. Legal tweak could extend EU control on Russia pipeline
  7. Ukraine language law does not harm minorities
  8. EU begins preparations for Brexit trade talks