‘Independent Scotland could join EU in 18 months’

Pat Cox said EU expulsion for Scotland would lead to 'chaos'. Picture: AP
Pat Cox said EU expulsion for Scotland would lead to 'chaos'. Picture: AP
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AN independent Scotland’s membership of the European Union would be secured within the SNP’s 18-month timescale, a former president of the European Parliament has said.

Ireland’s Pat Cox branded opposition claims that Scotland would find itself frozen out of the EU as “sophistry” and said the country’s expulsion would damage the internal market and lead to “chaos” in the EU fisheries sector.

Mr Cox, who was president of the parliament between 2002 and 2004, said the EU has always shown “pragmatism and inventiveness” when dealing with territorial changes such as the re-unification of Germany.

“It has always respected the expressed democratic will of the peoples involved,” he said.

The prospect of Scotland being forced to “go to the back” of an enlargement queue is also dismissed by Mr Cox.

“Such statements, arguably, are sophistry and do not bear analysis,” he added.

“Moreover, it is unclear what would be the common European interest in seeking to expel an independent Scotland. On the contrary, at the limit, such interests could be damaged by the fragmentation of the internal market and not least the chaotic implications for the EU’s fisheries sector, including its Scottish-related access to Norwegian fisheries.”

The Scottish Government says Scotland would secure its EU membership before the new state became fully independent in March 2016. This would be achieved by renegotiating existing treaties, through an Article 48 amendment. Mr Cox says this would be viable and reflect the “past pragmatism and inventiveness” of the EU.

Many experts have warned that an independent Scotland would find itself outside the EU and be forced to re-apply to join, known as an Article 49 amendment.

But Mr Cox adds: “Article 49 is the outsider’s means of applying to get in, not an insider’s means of negotiating continuity of effect in respect of its territory and citizens.”

Scotland’s membership of the EU is seen as crucial economically. It would mean firms retaining access to the lucrative single market and vital EU global trade treaties. But there have been concerns that Scotland could be forced into joining the troubled euro currency union or sign up to the Schengen “open borders” arrangement.

It has been one of the key issues in the independence debate. In order to join the EU, whether through the Article 48 or 49 route, an independent Scotland would need agreement from all 28 EU member states. There have been concerns that countries such as Spain and Italy, which have their own separatist movements, may object to Scotland’s membership.

Just last week a row broke out when former Brussels economic commissioner Ollie Rehn warned that continuing to use the pound without a formal currency union could prevent an independent Scotland from joining the EU.

He said in a letter to Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander it would “simply not be possible” to combine a policy of sterlingisation with EU membership.