Barroso: It’s ‘nearly impossible’ for independent Scotland to join EU


European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said states breaking away from existing EU countries would struggle to gain EU membership, further complicating Scottish nationalists' already uncertain plans for independence.

"Extremely difficult, if not impossible" for independent Scotland to join EU, Barroso says

Barroso said in an interview yesterday (16 February) it would be nearly impossible for the European Union to grant membership to such states - days after the British government said an independent Scotland would not be able to keep sterling as its currency.

Scotland is due to hold a referendum on independence in September. Polls show around 29% of voters in favour and 425 against, with 29% undecided.

Barroso, interviewed on BBC television, declined to comment directly on whether an independent Scotland would be welcome to join the EU.

But he said all EU states would need to back the membership of any new country that emerged from a current member state.

"It would be extremely difficult to get approval of all the other member states ... I believe it's going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible," he said.

Double trouble

The Scottish National Party (SNP), which is fronting the independence campaign, is banking on retaining both EU membership and the pound.

John Swinney, an SNP deputy in Scotland's parliament, told the BBC Barroso's comments were "preposterous" and that no EU state had indicated it would veto Scottish membership.

But secession is a sensitive subject for several other countries that have regions seeking to form their own states.

Spain, which Barroso said in the interview had been "opposing even the recognition of [former Serbian province] Kosovo", is for instance wary that a vote for Scottish independence might encourage separatists in its Catalonia region.

Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, also went on the offensive on Sunday against critics of the independence campaign.

Writing in The Sunday Times newspaper, he accused the British government of bullying over the currency issue and said he had asked British Prime Minister David Cameron to rein in his campaign to keep Scotland's 307-year union with the rest of Britain intact.

On Thursday Cameron's Chancellor, George Osborne, warned Scotland it would have to give up the pound if it voted to end the union, declaring the currency could not be divided up.

The leader of the campaign to keep Scotland in the UK, former British Chancellor Alistair Darling, said the independence campaign was beginning to unravel.

"Alex Salmond is a man without a plan on currency and Europe. The wheels are falling off the independence wagon," Darling said.

Barroso has previously said that any newly independent state would have to re-apply to join the EU.

His comments are at odds with Scotland's blueprint for independence, published last year, which says that it hoped to agree a "smooth transition" to membership of the EU as an independent state.

The Scottish government paper said they believed transition could be agreed without interrupting its EU membership in time for a potential independence declaration in March 2016.

Barroso and other officials on the current Commission are due to step down when their term ends at the end of October but there is no evidence to suggest a new Commission would take a different view of Scotland's membership rights.

  • 18 Sept. 2014: Scottish independence referendum
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Mike Parr's picture

I assume that Euractive meant 42% rather than 425 (if the latter ...well...). Barroso has less than 1 year left to serve and is looking for a new post that may need the support of what passes for the UK government. That aside, there is a double issue.

First: should Scotland as part of the EU (through being part of the UK) gain automatic membership of the EU if it secedes from the UK. Barroso's comments imply no, the Scottish government thinks yes.

Second: Barroso seems to think (based on an assumption that on leaving the UK Scotland would no longer be part of the EU) that some member states would vote against Scotland "re-joining" the EU. He probably has in mind Spain and perhaps a couple of other countries as the objectors.

At a practical level no part of the EU has "left" and then applied to "rejoin" thus new territory. Consequences, if Scotland is obliged to "leave and then reapply" (pick your own phrase to describe what happens) could include access to fishing waters. I have no idea how many Spanish and French and... fishermen "enjoy" access to Scottish waters - probably somewhere between "some and many". If Scotland was not part of the EU (for whatever legal reason) would the Scottish government allow these fishermen access to its waters? Would Spanish/French etc fishermen be worried if they were denied access? (on the quite reasonable grounds that Scotland was not part of the EU). I'd guess - probably.

With respect to UK commitments to 20/20/20 targets, Scotland provides a great deal of the RES for electrical power without which England & Wales would not stand a cat in hells chance of hitting the RES target. The new proposed nukes will not solve this problem. Where does that leave England & Wales? Asking for yet more derogations? more time?

Whilst the EC may have its own views on Scottish EU membership (or non-membership) ultimately it is the EU member states that decide. A consideration of consequences (auto membership vs non-membership) is worth doing although in the current febrile climate this seems to be beyond the whit of any of the protagonists.

Daye Tucker's picture

It's certainly not beyond the wit of the pro Independence lobby as evidenced by their consistent stating of all the points you have just raised over a long period Mike.

That these points have been dismissed and challenged by the unionist lobby is one small example of their strategy to instil doubt and fear in the Scots before the beginning of the vote after which the real negotiations begin.

However, conversations are already taking place right across Scotland. Coupled with access to factual information through the internet those prepared to drill more deeply for the truth will eventually be able to reach more informed conclusions.

The irony of a situation where the UK protagonist endlessly warns the Scots of all the insurmountable barriers to continue their EU membership which the Scottish majority wish to retain, whilst the rUK move towards an IN OUT EU membership referendum where the polls tell us the majority wish to leave, should not be lost.

Anne's picture

Let Scotland remain in the EU and let the rest of the UK be free.

Anne's picture

Free out of the European Union. Free to Govern ourselves according to our own Common Law Constitution. Free to no longer PAY foreigners to make Rules, Directives and Regulations that even those we elect in a British Houses of Parliament that also have to obey the same EU orders we are supposed to obey.

Free to never again have a British Government that prefers to try alter our long Standing Common Law Constitution that so many gave THEIR lives for in two World Wars rather than have foreigners Governing us yet when elected would rather pay £billions to foreigners in order to obey EU laws.