Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The EU is calling

And there is much serious thinking to be done in the wake of the regrettable vote to leave the EU. For the moment I'm going to park this long comment that was made to a piece by Alex Massie. Alex's piece,  "Is Brexit the beginning of the End of Britain?" was reflecting on where the vote leaves Scottish Unionists now and acknowledges the likelihood that independence has moved a step closer. 

His view - "Sturgeon will wait. There is too much uncertainty abroad right now for her to do anything else. Moreover, any future independence prospectus will have to look and sound and feel very different to that offered the Scottish people in 2014. That was a case of whisky and oil, based on economic projections so heroically optimistic they were delusional. Next time will be different.
Next time the offer will have to be realistic. That means acknowledging, owning, some hard truths. Fantastical twenty year forecasts of permanent economic growth, annual increases in productivity, and high levels of immigration will not do. Independence, if it happens, will be hard. Very hard. But so is reality, as we have discovered in recent days."

And here was the response, which is well enough argued. We know enough from referendums to know that crude sentiment trumps everything, but those of us of a more serious frame of mind (indeed, a rational enlightened Scottish frame of mind) owe it to themselves to consider these points.
If the Scots believe their future is best served outside the UK then that's regrettable (I'm a unionist), but it is not the job of the English or Welsh to vote based on what they think will least upset Scottish voters and it is unreasonable and self-centred to expect them to. I won't even begin to talk about the democratic deficit in the UK brought about by Scottish MPs voting on matters that only affect England. The English have shown remarkable patience and flexibility to keep Scotland in the UK but it seems it is never enough.
A few facts to remind you of Alex. Cameron committed to an in or out referendum on our membership of the European Union in 2013. The polls consistently showed that there was a realistic chance the UK would vote to leave the EU. In 2014, after the commitment to an EU referendum was made, Scotland held its independence referendum, with the SNP promising to both Scots and the rest of the UK that this was a 'once in a generation, possibly once in a lifetime' event. Scotland voted comfortably to stay in the UK despite knowing an EU referendum was a realistic possibility. You seem remarkably relaxed about the astonishing level of deception it would represent to even hold a 2nd independence referendum anytime soon but hey ho.
I'm not sure you quite appreciate the complications and hurdles that face Scotland before it could leave the UK and re-join the EU. Obviously, Scotland would actually have to become an independent country. That's the easy bit. There seems to be a fantasy idea doing the rounds that Scotland could somehow glide seamlessly from the UK into the welcoming arms of the EU. This is nonsense. An independent Scotland would need to go through a long and painstaking accession process. While it may be tempting to believe that a bitter and jilted EU would allow Scotland to waltz straight in so as to punish the rest of the UK, the reality is rather different.
Firstly, the EU has rather a lot on its hands right now, not least trying to ensure its very survival and manage the members it already has.
Secondly, all 27 member states would have to approve Scotland's entry into the EU. The likes of Croatia, which had to go through a ten-year process, would not be likely to approve of Scotland's immediate accession.
Thirdly, the UK still has allies in Europe. There are many countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, that rely on a strong United Kingdom in NATO. They know the breakup of the United Kingdom would greatly diminish our NATO commitments and will therefore not be keen to make an independent Scotland seem an attractive proposition and will likely stand in the way of any EU membership.
Fourthly, Spain isn't particularly keen on accepting new members that have seceded from other members given its own problems in trying to keep itself intact.
Fifth, although Scotland could be a successful independent country in the long term, in the short term it would be an economic basket case. The economic case didn't add up last time, the currency question was never resolved and the fact that the bloated Scottish state would need to drastically downsize, with all the pain that will entail still remains. Add into the mix the collapse in the oil price and the decimated oil industry and it doesn't look pretty. It's highly doubtful, therefore, that Scotland would meet the economic criteria required to join the EU in the short to medium term. The EU has enough economic basket cases to fund without adding another.
If Scotland ever did join the EU, you would also be joining the Eurozone, and the common market and Schengen, necessitating a border with the rest of the UK. You would voluntarily cut yourself off from by far your biggest trading partner in order to entertain the slim possibility that in many years hence you could join an enormously flawed, democratically unaccountable, failing superstate? It would be an irrational move that would cause the rest of the UK and the world considerable harm, and Scotland enormous harm. And for what? To prove a point? To show the English how upset you are with them for not voting the way you wanted them to? Perhaps your friends are not so different from the average SNP member. Happy to throw the Union to the fire and commit an enormous act of self-harm simply to prove a point. With 'Unionists' like that, who needs Nats?
A final point. Nicola Sturgeon is, I am sure, aware she has no chance of getting into the EU anytime soon once the UK leaves. What we have witnessed from her since the referendum result is posturing and bluster with little substance. She knows she is ultimately powerless to prevent this. She has so far managed to secure a meeting with Guy Verhofstadt, a bizarre Belgian joke with a longstanding hatred of Britain and no real power. Quite what Ms. Sturgeon is hoping to negotiate from him is anyone's guess. A Belgian waffle? It will be interesting to see what her end game is here, given she will have nothing to offer the Scottish people at the end of this. She should tread carefully.