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Scottish independence: Hague EU claims criticised

William Hague said this week that if Scotland votes to leave the UK it will also leave the EU. Picture: Neil Hanna

William Hague said this week that if Scotland votes to leave the UK it will also leave the EU. Picture: Neil Hanna

A FORMER European Commission (EC) director has dismissed suggestions that Scots will be deprived of their European Union (EU) citizenship if they vote for independence from the UK.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said this week that if Scotland votes to leave the UK it will also leave the EU.

The Scottish Government says Scotland would negotiate a seamless transition into the EU in the 18 months between the referendum and its proposed independence day in 2016.

EC president Jose Manuel Barroso has said any new independent state would have to apply for EU membership.

But David Grant Lawrence, a former EC director-general, said that anyone who claims to know for certain is “whistling in the wind”.

‘Hard to envisage’

Speaking at an event to mark the 40th anniversary of the UK’s membership of the EU in Edinburgh, Mr Lawrence said it is “hard to envisage” Scots’ EU citizenship being revoked.

“I was surprised by Mr Barroso’s statement about Scotland’s vote on independence,” he said.

“It is clear to me that if Scotland votes for independence we would be in a situation where there would be no EU precedent.

“I’m sorry to be rude to everyone, but anyone who tells you that they know the answer is whistling in the wind.

“We don’t know the answer, we will have to tackle the answer when we get there.”

He added: “If we hold a British passport we are all citizens of the EU as well.

“I find it hard to envisage a situation where suddenly I cease to be an EU citizen, and then some miraculous process happens and I become an EU citizen again. My rights are taken away from me to be given back to me?

“I maintain that the same thing could conceivably apply to the citizens of Wales, England and Northern Ireland.

“I am saddened that the debate has come to people shouting through megaphones about a situation where we really don’t know where we are.”

Mark Clough QC, former chair of the Law Society’s EU committee, said: “Mr Barroso is Portuguese, and is not far away from Spain in his origins.

“It is quite well-known that Spain has put a lot of pressure on the Commission to make it clear that they don’t like secession because of the Catalan issue.

“Apparently, Spain has said it will veto Scotland’s membership, which is a crazy thing for any government to say.”

‘Playing politics’

Speaking at Westminster on Tuesday, Mr Hague said: “If Scotland left the UK, it would also be leaving the organisations the United Kingdom is a member of, including the EU.”

But SNP MSP Christina McKelvie today accused Mr Hague of “playing politics” when his party has promised a referendum on the UK’s continuing EU membership in 2016.

Ms McKelvie, convener of Holyrood’s Europe committee, said: “I find it ironic that William Hague is saying that when we know for sure, absolutely sure, that we will go for a referendum on the EU in 2016.”

Liberal Democrat MEP candidate Christine Jardine said it is “misleading” to suggest that a vote for the UK is a vote against the EU.

She said: “It’s not the Westminster government, which is at least half in favour of the EU, it’s a faction of the Conservative Party.

“But certainly the vast majority of, certainly the Liberal Democrats, I believe the Labour Party as well, and a fair proportion of the Conservative Party, would campaign to stay within the EU.”

Read more on Scottish independence here

 

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