Senior MEP: Europe will negotiate relationship with Scotland

05/08/2016
michael

Labour’s David Martin says attitudes within the EU about Scotland have been changed by Brexit vote 

EUROPEAN AUTHORITIES will be more welcoming to Scottish requests for status and membership following the Brexit fallout, according to Scottish Labour MEP David Martin.

Martin, the longest-serving UK MEP for 32 years, has said that the impact of Brexit significantly changes the political situation compared to how Scotland was treated by EU officials and states during the the 2014 referendum on independence. 

While the EU was previously cautious engaging with Scotland, the president of the parliament and commission met with first minister Nicola Sturgeon in June and a campaign is underway to keep Scotland within Europe.

On whether Scotland could negotiation a ‘status’ with the EU or get a good hearing as an independent country, Martin said: “Would they be prepared to hold other discussions on an informal basis, would they be prepared to discuss ad hoc relationships with Scotland? I actually certainly think so.

“The other big question that we’re maybe going to get onto but I’ll jump ahead to is if Article 50 [mechanism for UK exit from EU] is launched and we have indy two [second independence referendum], and independent would they negotiate with Scotland? 

“My view, and I took a different view during the first indy referendum, I was convinced because of Spain, Belgium, and others, that if Scotland became independent it would have eventually got into the European Union, but it wouldn’t have been automatic. I still believe that.

“This time, because it’s not a situation of our making, and don't expect the Spanish to say this publicly, actually if Scotland became independent and then said we wanted to remain inside the European Union, I think we would get a sympathetic hearing on that basis.

“It would be recognised as opposed to indy one in their eyes voluntary leaving, this time we were being pushed out.”

“So unless something had to be at a UK level – I’d argue there isn’t very much, defence, foreign policy, and probably social security, maybe elements of broadcasting – but beyond that basically nothing. Everything else should be Scottish.” David Martin MEP

Martin, the international trade spokesperson for the socialist group in Brussels, has been invited to become a member of the national Standing Council on Europe, which is investigating routes to maintain Scotland’s relationship with the EU. 

Scotland’s position within the EU was a high-profile issues during the Scottish independence referendum, with No campaigners claiming that any deal for an independent Scotland to re-join the EU would be lengthy and fraught with risk. Following the Brexit vote it is now the UK that faces years of uncertain negotiations. 

The Brexit vote has reignited the constitutional debate in Scotland, with Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley saying he would not oppose a second independence referendum.

European politicians extend hand of friendship to Scotland after Brexit vote 

Martin also explained that he was in favour of far more powers being held at a Scottish level. 

“I was probably back in 1999 more or less happy with the devolution settlement. I’ve come to the view articulated by Alex Rowley as deputy leader that unless there is a strong case for something to be a UK competence, it shouldn’t be,” Martin said.

“So unless something had to be at a UK level – I’d argue there isn’t very much, defence, foreign policy, and probably social security, maybe elements of broadcasting – but beyond that basically nothing. Everything else should be Scottish. 

“And even funding, I would reverse the model so  – none of this is new, it’s all been around for a long time – we pay a segment back to the central government for the common services (like defence and foreign policy) and we raise our own taxation, raise our own income, and apart from what we agree should be common services, everything else is ours to do with as we will.

“I don’t think Kezia [Dugdale, Scottish Labour leader] is quite there, but I guess that’s where she is heading with the federal model. Scottish Labour has shifted in that respect.”

Poll: Europeans push EU governments to accept independent Scotland

Martin and Rowley have both said independence should be considered as part of a post-Brexit review. Martin believes that any ‘hard Brexit’, which cuts crucial trade and travel ties, would be especially damaging to Scotland’s economy. 

“Since the Euroref, I’ve said I’m open minded at the moment. We need to understand what the British settlement will be,” Martin said. 

“If Britain is part of the single market, we still have free movement, we’d have to pay money for that, we’d have a Norway solution. For me that’s sub-optimal because in any context I’d prefer to remain a member of the European Union, but it doesn’t but it doesn't destroy Scotland’s relationship with Europe the way other models might.

“So from my point of view the case for independence is not enhanced. It’s not weakened, but it’s not enhanced by that situation. However, if we end up completely out of the single market, no free movement with the rest of Europe, then I think there is a case to look seriously at whether Scotland would be better served by being members of the European Union, and the only way we could do that is by being an independent country.”

Any EU-UK negotiations are expected to last at least two years. Theresa May has yet to name a date to trigger Article 50, which would begin the formal negotiating process. 

Picture courtesy of European Parliament

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