One of the most interesting things about independence movements in modern Europe is the impact of the EU. I wrote a paper for a graduate class in college that argued that because the EU allows even the smallest of its member states to have equal access to markets across Europe as well as free movement for its citizens, the cost of independence had been drastically reduced and we should expect to see growth in secessionist movements across Europe as her various Stateless Nations (ethnic nations that do not have their own governments) seek political independence within the EU’s economic union.
I can’t claim credit for coming up with the idea of course, the slogan of “independence within Europe” has been a core part of the SNP’s platform for a long time. But ten years ago my professors were more skeptical than I think they would be now.
One of the great ironies of the Scottish independence campaign is that the NO camp keeps insisting Scotland leaving the UK means leaving the EU as well. Speaking as a political scientist, I see no reason to suppose this would be the case. The United Kingdom was formed by the union of crowns between England and Scotland and if Scotland chooses to end that union both countries will be equal successor states and party to all treaties that were signed. Supposing that England gets to stay without negotiation but Scotland gets thrown out is utterly absurd. Either both stay in or both have to negotiate re-entry. The No camps position here is just ridiculous.
The irony comes in because even as David Cameron’s Tories and their new-found errand boys from Labour threaten the Scots with being expelled from the EU should they vote Yes, Cameron is promising conservative English voters a referendum on whether the UK should leave the EU. And he’ll have to follow through on that promise in order to try and keep right wing voters from defecting to UKIP – a right wing euro-skeptic party that is making strong headway in England. So if Scotland wants to stay in the EU, independence is the most secure way to do so.
As far as the reception they’ll receive, Scottish Oil is Europe’s biggest fuel reserve and losing it would mean radically strengthening Russia’s hand. For that reason, I expect France, Germany, and the eastern countries to strongly welcome the Scots into Europe. Ireland would be supportive as well – Scottish independence makes the reunification of Ireland exponentially more likely. I expect the southern Europeans to be neutral and the Nordics who share quite a bit with the Scots in terms of culture and economic ties to be cautiously welcoming as well. In fact the only country that might seriously object is Spain because of course Spain refuses to let the Catalans, Basque, and other stateless nations in their borders hold their own referendum.
The thing is, Spanish ships do a hell of a lot of fishing in Scottish waters and kicking Scotland out of the EU torpedoes their merchant armada. Frankly, Spain and England are not on the best of terms and haven’t been for decades over the English refusal to turn over Grenada. Scotland agreeing to support their claim should be enough to turn them to a yes. As for the remaining UK (England + Wales and norther Ireland), their position will be greatly weakened by the loss of Scotland’s oil and other exports and even if they get the free pass to stay in that English nationalists expect, they won’t be in much of a position to make trouble for Scotland.
So to briefly recap, Scotland has as good a claim to stay in the EU post independence as England does and even if they do have to renegotiate entry will find a lot of friendly faces at the table when they get there. England may well leave on their own either way and if the Scots vote to stay in the UK there’s a real chance they’ll get dragged out of the EU by England when they go.