European Movement in Scotland webinar
Four experts with knowledge and expertise on the European Union, its views on further expansion and how a country needs to approach membership, were brought together for this webinar organised by the European Movement in Scotland, and SCER (the Scottish Centre on European Relations).
The experts were professor Tobias Lock, Dr Barbara Lippert, Professor Janes Ker-Lindsay and Dr Kirsty Hughes. All their positions and areas of expertise – too numerous to mention here – are given on the webinar.
First to speak was Professor Tobias Lock, Jean Monnet Chair in EU Law and Fundamental Rights, who concentrated on the criteria for admission to the EU and areas that would need addressed by Scotland.
Now follows a few notes that found their way onto a scrap of paper as others spoke.
Dr Barbara Lippert, Director of Research in the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, whilst emphasising there was ambivalence to enlargement amongst EU member states, said there was “a broad openness to Scotland wanting to join” and that if there was a list Scotland would be at the top. In 2014 there had been a lack of understanding as to why Scotland wanted to leave the UK, but Brexirt had been a real game-changer. The EU now understands Scotland’s position. Nevertheless membership would have its challenges. What would Scotland contribute and what would it want to take out? Would we be a co-operative or difficult member? All political parties needed to explain Scottish nationhood to EU member states.
Professor James Ker-Lindsay is Eurobank EFG Senior Research Fellow on the Politics of South East Europe at the European Institute, London School of Economics, focussing on conflict, peace and security in South East Europe. Professor Ker-Lindsay emphasised there was no queue and that third countries had no part in the decision as to what country could and couldn’t join the EU. The process was political as well as legal with the process of achieving its independence defining how Scotland is treated by the EU.
Dr Kirsty Hughes is Director and founder of the Scottish Centre on European Relations, a researcher, writer and commentator on European politics and policy. Dr Hughes reminded that Scotland had been in the EU for 47 years. EU countries come together to co-operate, not to oppose. She believed the Spanish issue was the biggest problem as EU countries, despite the wrangling of the last few years, don’t want their relationship with the UK to fall apart.
If Scotland is to join, member countries want independence to have been achieved through a legal and constitutional process.
Touching on borders, Dr Hughes said with independence and EU membership the Scottish/English border would become an external border of the EU. It would be a hard border with rUK but open with the other EU countries.
Services had been omitted from the UK/EU trade deal so there was the possibility of a bilateral agreement on services between Scotland and England.
As great difficulties would be caused if Scotland left the UK before joining the EU, an association agreement would be in place with the EU but we might well also need a transition period with the UK.
There wasn’t time for most questions but a few received answers:
Timescale for membership – Dr Lippert suggested 7 years, while Professor Ker-Lindsay though membership in 3 to 4 years was possible. Much depended on how long Scotland had been out of the EU and how much our laws had changed and diverged from EU laws either through legislation changes at Westminster (eg on employment law and rights, or changes in EU law). EU members wanted new applicants willing to sign up as members without demanding opt-outs. Dr Lippert thought all Scottish political parties needed to make a convincing case for membership to the EU.
Attitude of Spain/Catalonia and other countries with separatist movements – There was general agreement that Scotland had to decouple itself from Catalonia by not going down a similar route. A declaration of UDI would see Scotland ostracised and isolated in the world with no EU membership.
There would be no opposition to Scotland’s membership providing our indepoendence had been achieved by an internationally recognised process and that we must have the agreement of the UK. Dialogue with London is seen as essential as is Westminster’s agreement. Scotland would also require to become a member of the UN and the same criteria applied to this – independence achieved by a legal and constitutional process.
The webinar can be viewed here.