We use cookies to help improve and maintain our site. More information.
close

March 15, 2017

On the nuances of Spain's position on Scotland

The announcement by Nicola Sturgeon that she would seek a second independence referendum for Scotland has put the spotlight again on Spain which is expected to prevent the EU accepting an independent Scotland because of its own separatist conflict in Catalonia. However, in recent weeks prominent Spanish politicians had denied Spain would object to Scotland becoming an EU member. On Monday foreign minister Alfonso Dastis reiterated Spain's position that an independent Scotland would have to renegotiate accession to the EU. Let's try to unpack all this.

A story from the BBC last week about European opinions on Brexit quoted Esteban González Pons, leader of the PP faction in the European Parliament, denying that Spain would veto Scotland's accession to the EU. However he assumed that Scotland would have to apply to come back into the EU after Brexit. This earlier story from Buzzfeed quotes a larger number of Spanish politicians to the same effect. 

What Spain is adamant about, El País wrote yesterday, is that Scotland cannot negotiate with the EU while it is still a part of the UK and therefore, whether Scottish independence happened before or after Brexit, an independent Scotland will find itself initially outside the EU. This is stressed with colourful phrases such as "at the back of the queue" which have no legal meaning, and ignore that Scotland would already be applying the EU acquis so accession negotiations could proceed quickly. 

One immediate observation about all this is that Scotland, not having been independent for over 300 years, is not party to any international treaties and so would really find itself outside trade agreements and the like unless special arrangements are made. The UK is itself part of the WTO, has legacy bilateral air traffic agreements with other countries, and is a member of all major international organisations already. So even if Scotland can be fast-tracked back into the EU, the UK would initially be in a much better position after a hard Brexit than Scotland would be immediately after independence.

What about EEA membership? Here the same logic applies. The EEA member state will not allow a region to become a member - but Scotland would have to become independent first, and then negotiate accession. But while EEA membership is a clearly an avenue to pursue for an independent Scotland, it is not clear whether that is desirable. Given Scotland's dependency on the UK for trade, the best economic option for an independent Scotland would be to create a customs union with the UK, and let that custom union agree a trade deal with the EU. 

The Times has a poll out this morning, showing that 57% of Scots want to stay in the UK post-Brexit. It also confirmed that those who vote in favour of staying in 2014 would do so again. While any poll of this kind comes with health warnings, these numbers seem right to us. Brexit has muddied the waters a bit, as the Economist put it, but it will not change Scotland’s fundamental position. Unlike in 2014, the public is now much more aware of the type of alliance an independent Scotland could have with the rest of the EU: none in the short term, and uncertain in the long term.

The most likely option, however, is that Scotland will remain in the UK, that the UK, including Scotland, will exit the EU on schedule in 2019, and that there will be an Article 50 agreement, together with a transitional arrangement.

Show Comments Write a Comment

March 15, 2017

On how not to deal with Turkey

We noted a comment in ARD German TV wondering why the EU has been silent after the attacks by Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the Netherlands. There was not a word from Jean-Claude Juncker, who considers himself a political president of the European Commission, nor from any of the other top EU officials, like Donald Tusk. 

The EU has many means to react against Turkey if it wanted to. It could freeze the EU accession negotiations. That would stop payments that Turkey is already receiving. And it could stop the talks with Turkey about an extension of the customs union. The EU is, of course, internally divided about how to respond to the extraordinary behaviour by Erdogan. It does not want to endanger Turkey’s Nato membership. Or the refugee deal. Or the reunification of Cyprus. It’s not Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen who are endangering the EU, but its own lack of courage.

One of the many interests that are pulling away from a strong response, beyond those mentioned above, are economic. German industry had suffered by being enlisted to support the sanctions against Russia. The Turkey crisis is now the big bilateral problem for them, and is already having an effect on business. Brexit will be next. And the US wants to reboot the bilateral trading relationship. These are all Germany’s biggest export markets.

Turkey is not quite on the same scale. Frankfurter Allgemeine reports that the number of business inquiries at the German chamber of commerce in Turkey has gone done by half. Investment has dried up. We are not yet at the stage where existing companies leave the country, but they are nervous. Some are diverting their investments to South-eastern European countries, like Rumania and Bulgaria. And tourism has completely collapsed. Who wants to go to Turkey at a time like this?

Show Comments Write a Comment

This is the public section of the Eurointelligence Professional Briefing, which focuses on the geopolitical aspects of our news coverage. It appears daily at 2pm CET. The full briefing, which appears at 9am CET, is only available to subscribers. Please click here for a free trial, and here for the Eurointelligence home page.

 

Recent News

  • February 02, 2017
  • Will it come to the use of force in Catalonia?
  • The day Brexit became irreversible
  • Can Trump and May succeed?
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • September 18, 2017
  • Why Germany cannot lead Europe, let alone the free world
  • Will Macron help to build up Mélenchon?
  • Boris' Coup
  • January 05, 2017
  • French Socialist primaries - old wine in new bottles
  • Le Pen's hard ecu
  • Will Tusk get a second mandate?
  • Themes of 2017
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • July 10, 2017
  • EU in self-destruction mode
  • The EU's fault lines
  • Fake News and Fake views
  • November 30, 2016
  • Is Russia behind a massive cyber attack in Germany?
  • Will Fillon move to the centre?
  • The Dutch left field is getting crowded
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • October 16, 2017
  • What‘s the deep meaning of the elections in Lower Saxony?
  • Can Brexit be revoked?
  • Macron's grand narrative
  • April 19, 2017
  • Shadows of money
  • Breppe Grillo vs Eurointelligence
  • October 20, 2016
  • No games please, we are Europeans
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • September 21, 2017
  • Time to get serious about Brexit
  • Would the FDP claim the job of finance minister?
  • The return of the ultra-right to German politics
  • May 15, 2017
  • SPD and CDU disagree on how to respond to Macron
  • Was Rajoy blackmailed?
  • The rise of the re-leavers
  • January 05, 2017
  • French Socialist primaries - old wine in new bottles
  • Le Pen's hard ecu
  • Will Tusk get a second mandate?
  • Themes of 2017
  • August 30, 2016
  • Brexit facts on the ground
  • Burkinis and Republican primaries
  • The SPD and TTIP
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • January 15, 2018
  • Is the section on Europe for real?
  • Can Drahos upset Zeman?
  • December 21, 2017
  • Catalonia votes
  • A deputy prime minister resigns
  • Will Gibraltar result in another Irish fudge?
  • Blood, sweat and tears
  • November 28, 2017
  • On the Northern Ireland question
  • Kammenos off the hook, for now
  • November 06, 2017
  • Pressures on EU rise over Catalonia
  • German pre-coalition talks hit glitch
  • If you thought UK politics couldn‘t get worse...
  • October 16, 2017
  • What‘s the deep meaning of the elections in Lower Saxony?
  • Can Brexit be revoked?
  • Macron's grand narrative
  • September 26, 2017
  • Brexit is a binary choice between EEA or third-country status
  • September 08, 2017
  • SPD keeps sliding
  • Macron in Athens: symbolism over substance
  • The main Brexit battle lines run through the Tory party
  • August 21, 2017
  • Soft, getting softer
  • Tsipras' chances of a boost
  • On the fallacy of a middle-ground option for the eurozone
  • July 26, 2017
  • Has Schulz blown it?
  • Housing benefits cuts expose Macron's weakness
  • July 11, 2017
  • The political fallout of the G20 in Germany
  • June 26, 2017
  • Brexit - the central case and the tail-risk
  • The German fear of Macron
  • June 12, 2017
  • Not strong perhaps, but stable
  • Catalan independence, a mental state
  • May 31, 2017
  • Getting real in the debate on the euro's future
  • Russia's growing influence in Italy
  • May 19, 2017
  • The EU is shocked, shocked by the UK’s stance on Brexit
  • Macron and the press
  • Towards a Buy European act?
  • May 08, 2017
  • A message of hope
  • Barnier's not so easily agreed Brexit principles
  • The rebirth of the paranoid conspiracy theory
  • April 27, 2017
  • Courageous or reckless?
  • Softer, softer, soft
  • April 19, 2017
  • Shadows of money
  • Breppe Grillo vs Eurointelligence
  • April 10, 2017
  • Nein, nein, nein, und nein
  • Sounds like a bad Brexit story, but ain’t
  • On how not to exit the euro
  • April 03, 2017
  • On the meaning of the Navalny protests
  • On the surreal nature of Italy’s political debate
  • March 29, 2017
  • B-Day
  • Wargaming Catalan independence
  • Macron's strategy for the legislative elections
  • March 24, 2017
  • French Polls suggest two battles
  • Meet the Catalan assembly of elected officials
  • Could there be a coalition that prevents a Brexit deal?
  • March 20, 2017
  • Does the language of communiques matter?
  • Spain snap election rumblings
  • Will there be a Brexit deal?
  • March 17, 2017
  • Le Pen fishes for Sarkozy voters
  • Catalonia is nothing like Scotland... Oh, wait!
  • Sinn’s Europe
  • March 16, 2017
  • A Polish horror story
  • On the return of industrial policy
  • The limits of the multi-speed Europe