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.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty