Oxford scholar: Accession in EU's 'material interest'

“It would be in the EU's interests for Scotland to remain,” says senior adviser in Brussels

IN a policy brief released on Thursday a senior adviser at the European Policy Centre, Brussels, suggested that the European Union (EU) would be better off accepting Scotland whether as part of the UK or as an independent state. 

Graham Avery, also a senior member of St. Antony's College, Oxford University, expressed his personal views in the briefing paper on the path forward for Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The paper, 'Scotland and the European Union', outlines how the conditions have changed since the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014.

It came out on the same day the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met the Standing Council on Europe, the body commissioned by the Scottish Government and made up of 18 legal, economic and diplomatic specialists.

“From the economic point of view, it is in the EU's interest for it to remain: from the political point of view, to refuse Scotland after its vote to remain would be a bad signal.” Graham Avery

Avery suggested that the EU nations which are hesitant or opposed to Scotland maintaining its membership of the EU will eventually take a logical and economically driven position.

Avery stated: “But it is in the material interest of the EU, including Spain, to keep Scotland - with its contribution to the EU budget and its extensive fisheries resources - inside the EU.

“Since Scotland's referendum in 2014 was part of a constitutional process, Spain would have recognised Scottish independence if the vote had been 'yes'.

“It would not have facilitated Scotland's accession, but would have accepted it on the basis of a confirmation of the EU's respect for the constitutional arrangements of its members.”

There was, however, a warning that concessions of significance would have to be made by the Scottish Government in any case, and opt-out would not be forthcoming from the 27 remaining EU members.

“It (Scotland) is well qualified for EU membership.” Graham Avery

The issue of currency would still be in his view, one that required a decisive and clearly planned solution.

He said: “If and when a negotiation on Scotland's accession to the EU takes place, much will depend on whether the Scottish Government requests special terms.

“It would not be realistic to ask for the British 'opt-outs', which anyhow are unnecessary –no country has ever been obliged to join the euro or Schengen unless it wished to do so.

“But Edinburgh has difficult questions to answer: for example, what currency would it use after independence the pound Sterling, or the Scottish pound?”

"But it is in the material interest of the EU, including Spain, to keep Scotland.” Graham Avery

Avery pointed to the case of Kosovo, which was refused entry, as an example that did not apply to Scotland. He also focused on Montenegro as a better example of accession for a newly independent state.

In his briefing he stated: “It is true that Spain, Slovakia, Romania, Greece, and Cyprus have refused to recognise Kosovo because its unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008 could be a precedent for separatists in their own countries.

“But it is also true that Spain and all other EU states immediately recognised Montenegro in 2006 when its independence from Serbia resulted from a constitutional referendum.”

“Scotland is a prosperous and stable democracy that has applied EU rules and polices for more than 40 years.” Graham Avery

Finally came his personal advice to EU governments based on his analysis of the current situation in Europe. He suggested that because Scotland meets all the pre-requirements of membership as a wealthy state with close cultural ties it would be sensible and in the EU’s interests to accommodate accession.

He said: “What position should the EU27 (remaining states within the EU) adopt? Scotland is a prosperous and stable democracy that has applied EU rules and policies for more than 40 years.

“It is well qualified for EU membership. From the economic point of view, it is in the EU's interest for it to remain: from the political point of view, to refuse Scotland after its vote to remain would be a bad signal.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon plans to meet Theresa May, the new UK prime minister, today to express her commitment to keeping Scotland within the EU.

Image courtesy Rock Cohen

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