A SENIOR member of Spain’s ruling People’s Party has said the Spanish government would oppose automatic entry to the European Union for an independent Scotland.
Alejo Vidal-Quadras, the European Parliament’s vice-president, became the first leading Spanish politician to suggest publicly that a fear of separatist movements in Catalonia and the Basque country would influence his country’s approach to Scotland.
He said an independent Scotland should have to apply for membership and go through the accession process like any other state. He insisted that his views reflected the Spanish government’s position.
Mr Vidal-Quadras said: “If the result of the referendum is that Scottish people want to be an independent state, they should go through the accession process [for the EU].”
Asked if this position was taken because of separatist movements in Spain, he said: “You are exactly right.”
While he did not suggest that Scotland would be blocked from joining, if such an approach was taken it could mean Scotland would have to apply to join as a new member state.
If so, the country would be forced to promise to join the eurozone and to sign up to the Schengen agreement – which abolished internal borders and enables passport-free movement between a countries – as an automatic condition for any new member state.
Opponents of independence claim this would lead to border controls at the English border, if the rest of the United Kingdom remained outside Schengen, a point disputed by Nationalists.
The SNP said last night that an independent Scotland would be automatically an EU member.
Mr Vidal-Quadras’s comments reflect evidence from leading academics at the foreign affairs committee in the Commons earlier this week.
Professor Robert Hazell, director of the Constitution Unit at University College London, and Dr Jo Eric Murkens, told the committee that, because a new Scottish state would lead to alterations in the existing treaties on voting rights in the Council of Ministers and numbers of MEPs, then it would be forced to apply to join the EU while the remainder of the UK would be the successor state.
They both claimed Scotland would then have to accept the euro and Schengen agreement on borders, which the UK is exempt from because no new countries have been given exemptions. However, the claims were denied last night by the SNP. A spokesman said: “Scotland has been part of the European Union for 40 years, and people in Scotland are citizens of the EU – there is no provision for either of these circumstances to change upon independence.”
He also pointed to comments made by a Spanish minister in February, that Spain would not stand in Scotland’s way.
Foreign minister Jose Garcia-Margallo said: “If in the UK both parties agree that this is consistent with their constitutional order, written or unwritten, Spain would have nothing to say, just that this does not affect us.
“No-one would object to a consented independence of Scotland.”
However, the pro-UK referendum campaign umbrella group Better Together said Mr Vidal-Quadras’s comments yesterday were consistent with the Spanish minister.
A Better Together spokesman said: “Nobody seriously thinks that an independent Scotland would be blocked from joining the EU. The issue was that it would not have automatic entry and would have to apply, which Mr Vidal-Quadras is just the latest figure to point out. This will mean that Scotland would have to join the euro and Schengen agreement as well as making other serious compromises such as losing the British rebate,” the spokesman said.