Independent Scotland would not be guaranteed EU membership, warns William Hague
British foreign secretary says leaving UK could cost Scotland up to £3.5bn a year
William Hague in Glasgow yesterday. He said the UK was “something we often take for granted but it is not something to give up lightly”. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
The Scottish government cannot guarantee either that an independent Scotland would become a member of the European Union, or Scotland’s terms of membership if it joined, senior British ministers have warned.
The issues surrounding Scotland’s membership of the EU have become some of the most contentious in the debate about the referendum on independence that is due to take place on September 18th next.
Scottish first minister Alex Salmond has argued that Scotland would continue in the EU if a majority of voters opted for independence, leaving 18 months to negotiate the details before the country would finally separate from England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2016.
“It cannot be assumed that Scotland would be able to negotiate the favourable terms of EU membership which the UK enjoys,” said the British government’s latest Scottish analysis paper published in Glasgow yesterday by foreign secretary William Hague.
“Some states may be unwilling to grant opt-outs to an independent Scottish state on measures which they have had to adopt themselves. Others have their own independence movements to consider, which may influence how they view an independent Scottish state’s membership of the EU,” the paper warned.
The analysis paper accepted that Scotland would face few issues complying with the basic requirements of EU membership since “it would already meet the membership conditions and comply with the vast majority of the EU acquis”.
However, Mr Hague said the UK was “something we often take for granted but it is not something to give up lightly”.
The Scottish National Party and other pro-independence campaigners had made “great claims about the romance of national destiny” as they presented a case to Scottish voters that was “pure gain and no loss”, said Mr Hague, who was joined in Glasgow by chief secretary to the treasury Danny Alexander.
Independence could cost Scotland up to £3.5 billion a year, Mr Alexander warned, since it would be unable to hold on to its share of the UK’s EU rebate and would lose Common Agricultural Policy benefits.
Meanwhile, Scotland’s ambition to stay part of the common travel area (CTA) that provides for free movement between the UK, Ireland, Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man was questioned.
“The Scottish government has stated that an independent Scottish state would seek to join the CTA, not the border and immigration parts of Schengen – a significant opt-out demand that will have implications for its [EU membership] negotiations,” the paper said.
Mr Salmond insisted that Scotland’s membership negotiations would be fast-tracked – though Spain, Italy and some eastern European countries have expressed concerns that an independence vote would fuel secessionist movements in their countries.