Financial Times

December 10, 2012 6:23 pm

Barroso warns Scotland on EU status

By George Parker, Political Editor

An independent Scotland would have to apply to join the EU and negotiate its terms of entry with other member states, José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, has warned.

Mr Barroso’s comments fly in the face of claims by Scotland’s nationalist government that a Yes vote to independence in 2014 would not affect the country’s continuing membership of the EU.

His statement suggests that an independent Scotland would have to join other countries such as Serbia and Macedonia in the waiting room for membership, with an attendant element of economic uncertainty.

As a new member Scotland would also be required to join the euro when the economic conditions were met.

“We are a union of states,” Mr Barroso told the BBC’sHardtalk. “If there is a new state, of course, that state has to apply for membership and negotiate the conditions with other member states.

“For European Union purposes, from a legal point of view, it is certainly a new state. If a country becomes independent it is a new state that has to negotiate with the EU.”

Mr Barroso declined to talk about Scotland’s case specifically, but his comments have ramifications for other parts of the EU with aspirations to independence, including the Spanish regions of Catalonia and the Basque Country. Mr Barroso’s comments are the most specific he has made on the independence question and are significant because the Commission is charged with upholding EU treaty law.

Cameron snubs Nobel ceremony

David Cameron refused to join fellow European leaders in Oslo on Monday for thepresentation of the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU, but insisted this did not reflect a desire to “lever” Britain out of the 27-member bloc.

The prime minister said he wanted Britain “at the heart of the single market” and did not want to emulate Norway, a non-EU member which had to adopt single-market rules without any say in their formulation.

Addressing a political journalists’ lunch at Westminster, Mr Cameron said he hoped to secure a“new settlement” for Britain in Europe, which was “deliverable politically and diplomatically”.

Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, attended the Oslo ceremony in Mr Cameron’s place. He said: “Today’s prize is a tribute to the people of Europe – not an institution. For centuries, the idea of Europe and peace was a contradiction in terms.”

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s deputy first minister, insists that if Scots vote for self-rule they would not have to reapply for membership.

She argues that if Scotland votes for independence in 2014, it would remain part of the UK for the period immediately after the vote and would thus be able to negotiate with the EU while still technically a member.

Ms Sturgeon said: “There is no provision for removing EU treaties from any part of EU territory or for removing European citizenship from the people of a country which has been in the EU for 40 years.

“We have always said that the specific terms of Scotland’s continued EU membership as an independent nation will be negotiated, but the crucial point is that these negotiations will take place from within the EU.”

Alex Salmond, the Scottish National party first minister, claimed to have sought legal advice on this question but was forced to admit in October that he had not. That spawned claims that Mr Salmond had misled public opinion.

David Cameron, prime minister, told a Westminster lunch on Monday that the SNP was trying to “have its cake and eat it” by claiming it could negotiate with the EU as part of the UK having already voted for independence.

While Scotland debates how it would maintain its EU status after an independence vote, Mr Cameron is considering a referendum sometime in the next parliament on whether Britain should remain part of the club.