Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, has said that in the event that Scotland votes for independence in 2014 then the new state of Scotland would have to apply for EU membership all over again. Well, I hope Scottish residents vote to stay in the UK and I think the possibility that they may not is mainly media and political hype. But I’d hate to see the kind of tosh we’re being treated to today become central to what should, after all, be a serious debate.
If Scotland votes for independence then are residents of Scotland going to lose their UK citizenship? No, of course not. You can’t be stripped of your citizenship just because you’re resident abroad and in any case there’d be no way for a ‘residual UK’ to distinguishing between ‘Scots’ and ‘people just living in Scotland for now’. Moreover, the UK accepts dual or even multiple citizenship (and so would an independent Scotland) so even people who chose Scottish citizenship would have the same right as those with French or Pakistani passports to retain their ‘UK citizenship’. Scots who chose to retain their UK citizenship, either alongside a new Scottish citizenship or not, would of course remain EU citizens.
So if Scotland votes for independence the EU will be faced with a ‘new’ country literally full of European citizens and one, by the way, which will claim the same moral right to be members of the EU as the residual parts of the UK (does Barrosso’s ‘principle’ that the ‘continuity’ state has ‘special rights’ really make sense? What if it were the smaller part?).
Would an independent Sotland really be kept out of the EU for a while? Hardly. Think of how the rest of the world would see the spectacle of the people of a new country, all EU citizens, facing deep economic uncertainty and a possible wholesale loss of human rights just to help out politicians worried about secession elsewhere in Europe. No, whether or not Scotland had to re-apply it’s certain that in practical terms it would be treated the same as the residual UK. That is, it would be fully inside the EU toute de suite – or, more likely, it wouldn’t be forced out in the first place.
Watch Mr Barrosso’s face as he makes the comments. He’s smiling with embarassment at times because he knows it’s not serious politics at all. He’s saying one thing to the Europroles and quite another to his mates.
Any chance of a serious debate now?
Nah, not likely.