Reality is hitting the Scottish independence movement like a freight train. Last week, the UK’s three main political parties stepped up their Better Together campaign, vowing that an independent Scotland would not be allowed to keep the pound. Now EU President Jose Manuel Barroso has warned that it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible” for Scotland to become an independent member state of the EU. In an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr, Barroso said yesterday:
In case there is a new country, a new state, coming out of a current member state it will have to apply. […] Accession to the European Union will have to be approved by all other member states of the European Union. […] We have seen Spain has been opposing even the recognition of Kosovo, for instance. So it is to some extent a similar case because it’s a new country and so I believe it’s going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, a new member state coming out of our countries getting the agreement of the others.
Spain feels threatened by the upcoming Scottish referendum because independence followed by a seamless accession to the EU would presumably embolden Catalan and other secessionist causes in Spain and elsewhere. But even if all current EU members were to approve Scotland’s membership, the new nation would be left with a bit of a pickle: It would also be expected to join the euro, which it has repeatedly said it has no intention of doing.What Scots must come to terms with is this: the EU would likely welcome an independent Scotland if it came ready and willing to sign up for the euro and all the other grand projects the Brussels bureaucrats can dream up. But if an independent Scotland plans to be part of the “EU awkward” squad, hating the euro and fighting the growth of power in Brussels, the path will be much trickier. Once it is independent from the UK but still outside the EU, on the other hand, Scotland will be in a desperately weak position. Brussels negotiators are known for milking every possible advantage in accession talks.Scotland may end up throwing off what it sees as undue influence from London only to be stuck with the even less comfortable burden of European rule. From the standpoint of maximizing Scotland’s power over its own affairs, working out a confederation within the UK while backing the UK against European overreach seems increasingly like the best bet.