THE remaining parts of the United Kingdom would have to renegotiate their European Union membership if Scotland voted for independence, senior European sources have said, saying both countries would become “succession” states within the European community.
EU legal experts say both Scotland and “RUK” – the remainder, of England, Wales and Northern Ireland – would be treated the same by Brussels, with both having to renegotiate continued membership.
One of those legal figures said such a renegotiation would involve a deal “done by the [European] Council, using qualified majority voting, and with the required say-so of the European Parliament”.
This would put Scotland in a different category to new member states such as Croatia, which – as an “accession state” – must get unanimous backing of all EU governments before gaining entry, and agree to join the euro.
The reports were backed by the SNP last night, which has long argued it would not be treated as a new member state, and would not, therefore, have to re-apply for EU membership.
Pro-Union critics, however, maintain that the situation is in doubt, and argue that Scotland could, therefore, be forced to accept membership of the euro.
The lawyers spoken to suggest that, if Scotland becomes independent, it would pave the way for detailed three-way negotiations between London, Edinburgh and Brussels, with issues such as the two nations’ voting clout and financial contributions requiring to be sorted.
“There is a valid legal question about what ‘RUK’ [what remains of the United Kingdom] would have to renegotiate,” said one senior EU source.
For example, an exit from the UK for Scotland would reduce London’s EU budget contributions, but also re-allocate billions of euros in a rebate London gets each year in lieu of French and German farm aid or grants for regional development and social projects.
Last year, a paper produced by experts from Commons library declared there was “no clear answer” over what status an independent Scotland would have within the EU. It argued as there was “no precedent”, and the matter has given rise to “widely different views”.
However, the SNP insists as Scotland and the rest of the UK are EU territory, both would continue membership after independence. On the claim that Scotland and the RUK would have to renegotiate, a spokesman for First Minister Alex Salmond said: “We will both be successor states, with exactly the same status within the EU.”
He added: “The lesson for UK politicians is to be careful what they say about Scotland, because the same attacks apply to them – the anti-independence parties should adopt a more positive and constructive approach.”