AN INDEPENDENT Scotland faces at least three years outside the European Union and it will be “next to impossible” to rejoin on the UK’s current terms, a group of senior business leaders has said.
Scotland faces “a long and winding road” back into the EU, according to Business For New Europe (BNE) which counts the chairmen of BAE Systems, RBS, BT Group and the London Stock Exchange amongst its advisory board.
The earliest Scotland could join would be 2019 but membership could be delayed until the next decade if the Scottish Government insists on an opt-out of the euro and a share of the UK’s budget rebate, a report by BNE associate Dr Daniel Furby said.
Yes Scotland said the report is trumped by the advice of key EU architect Dr Graham Avery, who said it is “entirely realistic” to negotiate Scotland’s continued membership by March 2016.
BNE said Scotland would leave the EU on independence day and would have to reapply under the normal accession procedure, rather than the “unprecedented, expedited route” suggested in the Scottish Government’s white paper.
Scotland “would need a temporary agreement to guarantee continued access to the single market” requiring a three-way negotiation between the Scottish Government, the UK Government and the EU running in parallel with UK-Scottish negotiations on the terms of independence, it said.
The report states: “It would be next to impossible for Scotland to negotiate a budget rebate like the UK’s, and very difficult for it to keep zero VAT rates on food, children’s clothing and books
“Scotland would also find it very hard to negotiate a formal opt-out from the euro, and if it did succeed in securing a currency union with the remaining UK - as the Scottish Government has proposed, although the UK Government has rejected that - that very fact would seriously complicate negotiations on EU membership
“If negotiations between the UK and Scottish Governments dragged on, or if Scotland pushed for special deals from the EU, the date of accession could slip into the next decade.”
Dr Furby said: “If Scotland were to seek special terms of membership, such as a UK-style budget rebate or euro opt-out, current EU members would ask why Scotland should receive better terms of membership than they do. The UK only won its rebate and opt-outs as full member of the EU, through many years of hard negotiation.”
Roland Rudd, chairman of Business for New Europe and RLM Finsbury, said: “There have been claims and counter-claims in the debate about Scottish independence.
“But on the issue of Europe, one thing is absolutely clear. An independent Scotland could not count on rapid and smooth entry to the European Union - or to get the terms of membership that the UK currently enjoys. There would be a price to pay. And the more Scotland pushed for special deals, the longer the process could last.”
A Yes Scotland spokesman said: “Scotland has been a full and valued part of the EU for over 40 years and this will remain so after a Yes vote in September.
“Leading EU expert Graham Avery, honorary director general of the European Commission and architect of the applications for 14 countries, confirms that it is entirely realistic for Scotland to negotiate its position as a full member state after a Yes vote and prior to becoming independent in March 2016.
“The only threat to Scotland’s continued EU membership is a No vote in September followed by Westminster’s proposed in/out referendum that could drag us out against our will.”
BNE’s advisory board also includes senior executives from ScottishPower, Shell, Amazon, Lloyds of London, JPMorgan Chase and CitiGroup.