Union, Europe or isolation?
Nationalists face a stark choice on Europe if their fantasy of independence ever becomes a reality, warns DAVID MARTIN
The SNP has blown a gaping hole in their independence in Europe strategy.
According to Eddie Barnes of Scotland on Sunday the nats have come out implacably against greater fiscal integration in the Eurozone. Combine the fact that some form of Eurozone economic governance is a near certainty with the condition that any new member state signs up to the single currency you find that the SNP have put themselves between a rock and a hard place. If their fantasy of an independent Scotland were to happen, the choice would be between staying out of the EU or being in and joining the single currency. The nats will huff and puff but no other choice will exist.
It is not difficult to understand why the SNP would be uncomfortable being part of a zone with tight rules on borrowing, common taxes and fiscal transfers. Even they would find it difficult to explain why a devolved Scotland should have a distinct corporation tax from England but an independent Scotland should harmonise its rate with countries in the Eurozone.
However, in openly admitting their concerns about Eurozone integration the nationalists have created a dilemma for themselves. The EU position is very clear: any new applicant to become a member state of the European Union has to sign up to be a member of the single currency. The only way out of this cul-de-sac for the SNP is their claim that they would not be a new member state. This is nonsense. The Doctrine of the Successor State leaves no doubt that the rest of the UK would assume the existing rights and obligations of our membership of the European Union. I have no doubt that Scotland would be welcome into the EU, but it would have to be negotiated and membership of the Euro would be non-negotiable.
Those who doubt who would have the privileges of the predecessor state should look at the break up of the USSR. The Russian Federation was declared the USSR’s successor state on the grounds that it contained 51 per cent of the population of the USSR. It was agreed that the Russian Federation would acquire the USSR’s seat on the United Nations Security Council and all Soviet embassies became Russian embassies.
This of course is no academic debate. With the referendum on independence pencilled in Alex Salmond’s diary, the SNP must come clean on what Scotland’s international position is likely to be. Are we to be an independent country outside the EU using the British pound, listening to the BBC but with border posts north of Berwick and Carlisle and customs controls at Stranraer because we have become an external border of the EU? Or are we to be part of a Eurozone with a different currency, a different tax regime and different fiscal strategy from our main market?
At any time such serious question about our future economic position would be unsettling. At a time of great economic uncertainty they could do untold damage to business confidence and inward investment and leave the Scottish economy in a state of paralysis for many years.
David Martin is one of Scotland’s two Labour MEPs. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidMartinMEP.