Sunday 19 January 2014

Hague's view on EU ignores Scotland's unique situation

As Ian Bell points out in this Herald article, most of what the UK government paper says about Europe is conjecture. There is no certainty. The situation has never occurred before.

In fact countries have joined the EU from outside. They have had to comply (and in certain cases, not comply) with a list of requirements. Compliance has taken longer or shorter periods, dependant on the starting points on finance, legal matters, human rights, etc.

Two slightly different situations have occurred in the EU’s history:

After the Berlin Wall came down, East Germany, with its basket case economy and human rights from hell record was assimilated into West Germany to become jointly Germany. This was achieved in a remarkably short period of time, because West Germany, already a member as WEST Germany, undertook to ensure that EAST Germany would comply with all the EU requirements. In fact, a new state of Germany was allowed to enter the EU in short orders.

When Greenland became an autonomous country in the Danish kingdom, it decided to leave the EU. It was far away geographically; it had little farming at the time, and so benefited hardly at all from the CAP. It did however, have massive and very rich fishing grounds which were being depleted by EU fishing fleets. In the give and take of the EU, Greenland gave an awful lot more than it took.

The leaving was not easily achieved. The EU didn't want to lose this tiny nation of 55,000 people. It certainly didn't want to lose its mineral resources or its fish. It drew out the process of withdrawal, although there was never any chance of Greenland being refused.

Scotland, whilst perhaps not having the fishing resources of Greenland, has a lot of other things that the EU would be unlikely to want to lose. It is compliant in law, in human rights and with OECD estimating that it would be in the top ten per capita rich nations in the world, it would be a net contributor.  Its citizens are already European citizens; they hold EU passports and driving licences. They are resident in countries all over the union, and citizens from all over the union work and study in Scotland. Does anyone think it likely that the EU would go out of its way to create problems for Scotland by not agreeing accession by 2016? Not just for Scots, but for all the other countries who have people working and fishing and studying here, and who have Scottish residents. It just doesn't make sense. Not when we know it can be done.

Even the UK government appears to have given up on the original argument that we wouldn't be allowed to join. What they are now trying to tell us is that it would cost us more money and that it would take years.

Mrs Thatcher, trying to face down the right wing xenophobes in her party, went to Brussels in 1984 to negotiate a rebate. She felt Britain, based on its greatness, had agreed to pay too much into the EU purse when it was, in fact the second poorest of the then 10 members

At that time a huge amount of the budget was spent on the CAP (around 80%) and Britain did badly out of that as it had a small agricultural sector by comparison with the other countries (being a cold and wet country).

Mrs Thatcher got her rebate but Britain, but in a no free lunch world, lost out on fishing rights, which disproportionately hit areas in the north of England and Scotland, where the Tories were less popular.

The rebate was and is funded largely by France and Italy and is extremely unpopular in these countries, and of course with the newer eastern countries joining the EU Britain is no longer amongst the poorest countries (even though it is the most indebted).

Of course Scotland wouldn't get that rebate (worth €5 billion to the UK, €50 million to Scotland). I doubt anyone expects it to. I wonder for how much longer the UK will get it, especially with Osborne's belligerent... "our way or the highway" attitude.

But already Scotland gets a bad deal from Europe, with 6 members of parliament (as opposed to Denmark’s 13), and our fishing, environment and farming business is carried out by and English minister with no knowledge of or responsibility for Scotland.

The other scare story is that we would be forced to join the Euro, but according to Osborne, so might the UK.

There are many reasons why that won't happen, of course, but as Mr Hague knows …or let’s say SHOULD know, whilst new members sign up to say that they will work towards Euro membership, there is no time frame for this. 

One of the prerequisites of being in the Euro is that the country must have spent two years in the ERM (remember Britain had to withdraw from it as the pound fell through the floor). But there is no obligation on any country to join the ERM. Ask Sweden.

It’s so insulting to be treated like this Mr Hague… and even more insulting when you don’t even keep to what the government paper says (there MAY be… there COULD be), but replace this in interviews with certainties (there WILL be).

You're driving wedges between us by lying, Willie. We are beginning to think you hate us.

Stop it.


  1. "We are beginning to think you hate us."

    If he does, the feeling will be mutual.

    1. To be treated with such disrespect is disturbing, I think Scaraben.

      The subject is contentious enough without them treating us like fools.

      Unfortunately the feeling i mutual. Not the best way forward no matter what the outcome of the referendum, but a disaster if we have to go on together. We will always know what they think of us... and how little that is.

    2. I don't think there's been a politician in either of the big Westminster parties who actually tells the truth.

      They all say *exactly* what they think will get the most people to support them, then do exactly what they were going to do anyway.

      They've all adopted a "rule at all costs" approach.

    3. Yes, I agree with that.

      They try out the latest scare story. Sometimes what they say is wrong because they were mistaken; sometimes because they have lied and hoped that no one would find them out.

      And it's not just about independence.

      They churn out things we expect to hear about all sorts of things. prison works; sick people are skivers; foreigners cost us money; the unemployed can;t get jobs because they are ill educated (never mind that it was THEM who did the educating... (Stu has a good piece on that today. I wish I could comment on his site!)

      They treat us like we are thick... but it's them who are thick. They haven't worked out that this interweb thingy was a game changer.

  2. But already Scotland gets a bad deal from Europe, with 8 members of parliament (as opposed to Denmark’s 13)

    It's a worse deal than that. Scotland only has 6 MEP's.

    1. Oooops Doug, sorry. I looked that up and counted down the side, without noticing that two of the seats had been abolished.

      I'll correct the article, with thanks.

  3. No one knows for certain, exactly what will happen with regards to the EU and Scotland after a yes vote. But to listen to Hague, Harman, Darling and Carmichael you'd think they already knew the answer.

    As for Cameron and Osborne, they can't even steady the sinking ship know as the UK, and if the Tories are returned in 2015, then their, in out EU referendum, might just be the final hole in the UK ship that sends it to the murky bottom.

    The question is do we want to be aboard that ship when it goes under, I think not, Scotland doesn't wan to be the orchestra that played on whilst the water circled our feet, meanwhile the limited lifeboats fill up with all manner of politico millionaires.

    1. It's true Anon, that these reports from the UK government paint a bleak picture of the possible future for an independent Scotland, whilst talking in the vaguest terms about what advantages we enjoy.

      By the time Hague does radio interviews the "possible" part has disappeared and are replaced by the same stuff masquerading as facts.

      The reports have to be vaguely factual whereas what a politician says can be utter fabrication.

      They seem to think that most worry about the representation we have in Quito or Lomé; they neglect to mention that consular and embassy facilities from all the EU countries are available to us (If I needed anything abroad I'd go to the French embassy before the British one, given the reputation of British consular services.) They forget that all these embassies and consulates are party (around 10%) OURS. We don't expect to use them, but we'd like like compensation for them.

      I just wonder that people have such a low opinion of themselves that they could believe that Iceland can do it, ireland can do it Malta can do it... but Scotland would be totally stuffed!!

      The Russians have already told Britain it is a small country not worth bothering about; the Chinese did it recently when, embarrassingly, Cameron was there on a visit, and America has told them that if they can't be a full spectrum war partner they are no use to them...

      The murky waters are a calling!!!