Clarity over EC

Readers may believe that a letter signed by a current and former staff member of the
European Commission (10
September) gives a definitive
answer to Scottish membership of the EU. Sadly, that is not the case.

To become a member state, candidate countries must satisfy a large number of criteria (known as the acquis communautaire).

Take one small but important area: the Customs Union, which is a foundation of the
European Union. For it to work, all member states must have a fully functioning customs

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Leaving aside the fact that skilled staff in specialist areas (risk management, tariff, anti-dumping, etc) will not be immediately available in Scotland, it is imperative to have a sophisticated IT system which can interact with the commission’s and other member states’ customs systems.

This cannot be created overnight but requires careful planning, development and testing before going live. The cost of this work alone will run into many millions of pounds but, even more critical for EU membership, it will take time.

It is inconceivable that the EU will admit a country until it has a fully-functioning customs
service: if goods are not being properly controlled as they enter any member state, then the single market is compromised.

It is not true, as your correspondents assert, that Scotland “can fully meet the EU’s membership criteria”. Scotland could, in time, do so – indeed, I am sure it would – but voters should be in no doubt: an independent Scotland would be out of the EU for five years or more, during which time there would have to be customs borders applying to all trade with all other countries.

Peter Young

Retired European
Commission official (in a personal capacity)

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