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“Scary or liberating, that is the meaning of independence…”

Fri 21 February 2014, 12:06pm

Talking to an English mate the other day he was waxing lyrical about how he’d be glad to get rid Scotland, until I pointed out that that’s a song you could keep singing until there was only London, Kent and the home counties left, at which point you’d be left with a valueless lump of the managerial classes.

No lumpenproletariat to fight your wars, for instance?

It was just a bit of banter, but there’s a reason loping stuff off (like Scotland, and the EU for instance) is becoming so popular, and I think the Charlemagne column in the Economist mulling Scotland’s EU question might be on to something:

Perhaps the anglophile Mr Barroso worries that, if Scotland votes itself out of the United Kingdom, the more Eurosceptic remnant of Britain would be more likely to vote itself out of the EU in 2017. Already struggling to deal with the repercussions of the euro crisis and the rise of anti-EU populists, Brussels would rather not have to contend with secessionists as well. Breakaway regions would add more small countries to an already unwieldy organisation. And fragmentation runs counter to the ethos of uniting to create a greater whole.

Unwittingly, the EU may be part of the problem. It has weakened national governments from above, by shifting powers to the European level (especially in the euro zone). And it has weakened them from below, by making it easier for separatists to seek independence within the cocoon of the EU. Francesc Homs, a senior member of the Catalan government, says the referendum could never happen without the EU, which steadied Spanish democracy after Franco’s dictatorship. “We feel safe and secure. We have lost our fear. Nobody is going to shoot us.”

The treaties allow countries to leave the EU but are silent on what happens if they break up within the club. A split would be unprecedented, even though several EU members were born of earlier secessions. The three Baltic states broke away from the Soviet Union; the Czech Republic and Slovakia came out of the “velvet divorce” of Czechoslovakia; Slovenia and Croatia emerged from the violent implosion of former Yugoslavia. The rest of the western Balkans is also moving closer to the EU. Serbia has begun membership talks, and even Kosovo is negotiating an association agreement, the first step towards membership.

It is wrong, therefore, to insinuate that newly independent states could never join the EU. Would Montenegro and Macedonia really be admitted faster than Scotland and Catalonia, which already apply the EU’s rules? Yet it is still more dishonest to pretend that accession would be quick or easy, even in the best of circumstances.

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Comments (10)

  1. mrmrman (profile) says:

    The columnist is right, the ‘no’ to a currency union statement by all three parties was a bullying attempt (with patronisation thrown in for good measure) to send the fear of god to any on the fence voter.

    The reality is that Scotland can make it on its own regardless. There are countless examples of small separatist state making it on their own (ROI case in point).

    New democracies tear up the rule book. They shape their own future.

    The real stumbling block for the SNP is convincing voters to be prepared to go into the unknown, the transitionary (possibly painful) phase towards their own currency system.

    If voters *really* want independence any stumbling block can be overcome. The question is one of desire, or perhaps more accurately apathy.

    A few more of these bullying announcements though…

    What do you think?
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  2. DC (profile) says:

    Unwittingly, the EU may be part of the problem. It has weakened national governments from above, by shifting powers to the European level (especially in the euro zone). And it has weakened them from below…

    You see this is the reason why I totally resent MPs and MLAs giving themselves or sorry setting up independent commissions that grant them inflation busting pay rises – the work is being hollowed out and displaced elsewhere, yet more money is paid out to national and regional law makers. Don’t think so, that’s not on.

    The only country to go against the grain has been Germany – it unified.

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  3. Jagdip (profile) says:

    Why is it that Scotland would need to re-apply for EU membership? Why not the residue and perhaps it would allow the residue to expedite its promised referendum on EU membership.

    Off topic completely, apologies, but are there any thoughts on the latest ABC figures for Northern Ireland which (unsurpringly) only the Irish News appears to be reporting.

    http://www.irishnews.com/news/the-irish-news-confirmed-as-all-island-market-leader-1337351

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  4. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Because its a new entity Jag. No one in their right mind thinks they would not be let in, but they will have to negotiate under separate cover.

    [Here’s the island ABC figures btw: http://goo.gl/OUNmKP

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  5. First, “…London, Kent and the home counties left, at which point you’d be left with a” pretty valuable lump with a very broad global outlook. London and the surrounding dormitory counties could build a rather grand country without the weight of fiscal transfer to peripheral regions.

    Second, Barroso probably thinking Spanish issues of Catalan, and Basque, rather than any greater point. A division of one of the larger nations is not really part of the vision for the future. Where would it all end?

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  6. oneill (profile) says:

    “….there was only London, Kent and the home counties left, at which point you’d be left with a valueless lump of the managerial classes.”

    And a population bigger than 7 or 9 of the present EU?
    And the highest GDP per head in the EU?

    Really, not the strongest pro-Union argument to put to the S English.

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  7. tuatha (profile) says:

    Surely part of the point of the EU was the dissolution of borders so that the many nations within the ,arbitrarily, redrawn borders post Napoleon, WWI,WWII would again allow PEOPLE’s (remember them?) voices to be, not just heard – as screams mostly – but listened to. Who knows, one day the semi fascist Ffith Republic (but who’s counting?) might acknowledge the Bretons, the Camargue, hell maybe even the Cathars.
    Which would be fun as the franks & Saxons & Hessen et al stir.Need i mention Schleswig-Holstein?
    But Schotteland – with what remains of their oil (pissed away during thatcherism’s dismal experiment as a straight transfer to the 4-5M dole) and such a lovely sunny climate, unsullied beaches and friendly, unterrifying natives, gotta be a tourist draw card..

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  8. Carlovivigornian (profile) says:

    Just playing devil’s advocate – if Scotland became independent and I was a UKIP fan, which I am not, I would argue that Scotland had not seceded from the UK. Its independence would have created two new countries: Scotland and the United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. I would then say to Mr Barroso that this new rump UK was not the same country that had joined in 1973 and so it too would no longer be part of the EU. It had split from an EU member state because the Westminster government by allowing the break-up was complicit. Like Scotland and perhaps Catalonia, “UK 4.0″ (UK 1.0 was 1707, 2.0 was 1801, 3.0 was 1922) would have to download the application form from the EU website – a long and confusing form that a Eurosceptic Tory government would never get around to filling in.

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  9. Jagdip (profile) says:

    Thanks Mick, I was being a little tongue in cheek (and obtuse) in suggesting that the UK minus Scotland is also a new entity which shouldn’t take its existing membership for granted. When the UK joined the EEC back in 1973, who knows, maybe the other states only admitted the UK, BECAUSE of the inventive frugal Scots (invented wire when two of them argued over a penny apparently) and the UK minus Scotland might be considered a completely new proposition altogether.
    Thanks for ABCs – it was always popular for discussion on here, you might consider a thread for it of its own.

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  10. IJP (profile) says:

    mrmrman

    If Scotland were confident that it could “make it on its own”, why would it insist, even upon being told it’s impossible, on a “Currency Union”?

    Why does the SNP not simply say “We’d have our own currency, though initially we’d peg it to Sterling”?

    Why all this bunkum about “transaction costs”?

    It really does look like, after all this time, the SNP has been caught out on the detail. It’s a pretty big “whoops”, frankly.

    Calvo

    Quite simply, that’s not what would have happened.

    If Scotland alone votes for “independence”, then it leaves the UK. It is a unilateral decision.

    The rUK would continue all its obligations, treaties, memberships etc. Scotland, however, would have to renegotiate them as a new entity.

    It could well be that, at some point in the future, the UK does go for a negotiated break-up, Czechoslovak style. But that’s not what’s proposed in September, be quite clear about that.

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