Another Portuguese politician, Scotland and the EU

Ages ago, I suggested that we adopt the term darling as a unit of measurement for the time between a Project Fear story was published, and its being debunked by the independence movement. The darling was already a currency which was devaluing rapidly, and now it’s entering negative territory as scare stories and misinformation are debunked before they’re even published in the mainstream media.

Here’s another negative darling, one they’ve not got round to yet, but possibly will sometime over the next few days. Fore-warned is fore-armed and all that. Though when I was a wean I thought it was four-armed – which would be four handy for a spot of swashbuckling. You could give yourself hauners. So that too.

Anyway, serious heid on noo …

According to Spain’s El Diario newspaper, during an interview on Basque Radio this week, former Portuguese deputy prime minister António Vitorino stated that Scotland will accede to full EU membership. He was quoted as saying that in the event of a Yes vote in September, the EU will potentially have 29 members instead of the current 28. He also stated that he expected Scotland to negotiate membership of the EU simultaneously with negotiations with Westminster on independence. And yet more good news for the yes campaign, he said that he thought that the legal aspects of Scottish independence within the EU would be dealt with in a relatively straightforward manner.

But his comments were more measured than that, and no doubt if Vitorino’s remarks make their way into the pages of the UK media, they will be spun into “a new blow for Alicsasmmin”. Because he did also say that he believed that Scotland would accede to the EU in accordance with article 49 of the EU treaty, and not article 48 as proposed by the Scottish government.

A noted lawyer and member of the Portuguese Socialist party, Vitorino was formerly a judge on the Portuguese constitutional court, served as the European Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs, and is currently the director of the prestigious European think tank Notre Europe. Notre Europe was founded by French president Jacques Delors in 1996 with the aim of continuing the work of bringing about an ever closer union of European nations. This aim is a founding principle in the Treaty of Europe.

In Vitorino’s opinion, Scotland will have to apply for membership under article 49 of the European Treaty, meaning that full agreement will be required amongst all EU member states. Negotiation will be required, and entry into the EU will not be immediate. However he insisted that Holyrood could negotiate with the EU at the same time as it negotiated Scottish independence with Westminster, and noted that the European Treaty obliges all member states to respect the democratic and constitutional decisions of other member states – and Scotland’s independence will be achieved in exactly that way. Remember, the question on the ballot paper is not “Do you want to leave the EU” – that’s the question planned for Davie Cameron’s UK referendum.

What this means, although Vitorino did not explicitly spell it out, is that other EU member states are obliged to respect and accept the constitutional and democratic decision within the UK that Scotland becomes an independent country. This does not mean that Scotland would be expelled from the EU, it means that other EU member states will be obliged to negotiate continuing Scottish membership because Scotland is currently a member as a consequence of being part of the UK, and will become independent as a result of a democratic and constitutional process within the UK. And we will not have voted to leave the EU. Other EU member states do not have the legal right to exclude Scotland simply for daring to answer the question of independence with a yes and for engaging in a process which the EU Treaty itself guarantees to protect and uphold.

Other EU states quite specifically do not have the right to place obstacles in the way of Scottish membership in order to discourage independence movements within their own borders. Vitorino has now told us that this is contrary to the EU’s founding treaty. And that’s significant, because discouraging other independence movements is the only reason Better Together ever give for the possibility of other EU states blocking Scottish membership or getting sniffy about it.

In essence, the view from Europe, at least that of the president of the Nostre Europe think tank, is that the matter of Scottish independence is one for Scotland and the remainder of the UK to sort out. Europe will accommodate itself to the outcome. And that’s the reality, not the fervid imaginings and dire threats of Alistair Carmichael and Alistair Darling – has anyone seen him recently? Has he been given his jotters or what? Shouldn’t we be told?

This doesn’t mean there will not be negotiations. It doesn’t mean that there will be no political horse-trading. Of course there will be. This is the grown up world of real international diplomacy, not the childish fantasies of the Better Together campaign. And in the real world Scotland does not go into those negotiations cap in hand without anything to offer. We are only naked and powerless under Westminster.

Here’s a translation of the revelant passages from the report in El Diario. In the rest of the original report he’s talking about Ukraine. I’ve not translated that. The original Spanish language article is here.

In an interview given to Radio Euskadi, and reported by Europa Press, Vitorino has averred that “the case of Scotland must be dealt with within the constitutional framework of the United Kingdom”, and if the result of the referendum is Yes, “the exit of Scotland from the United Kingdom must be agreed.”

“This is not going to be immediate. This has many implications, financial implication, above all the debate on the future of the pound sterling, of the currency of a possible independent Scotland,” he added. At the same time, he signalled that there is “a very important point” in the bilateral negotiations between Scotland and the United Kingdom, and in the multilateral negotiations, what is the statute of Scotland “within the European framework”.

In this sense, he believes that article 49 of the treaty will be applied, because “there is a new state which has been born and that new state has to negotiate” on the one hand with the United Kingdom, and on the other “accession with the other 27 members of the EU.”

In his judgement, there are issues of legal and political management “in this story”, and he has stressed that he, as a judge, believes that “all the legal issues will be dealt with”, whereas “the political ones are much more complicated.”

From 28 to 29 members

Thus, he insisted that if the result of the referendum is yes to independence, “the consequence will not be immediate because it will demand a political negotiation and a legal translation.” He stated “But, the truth is that the EU one day has 28 members, and if the referendum says yes, the next day it potentially has 29.”

António Vitorino considered that “the founding fathers of the EU” stood for “a union forever closer between people”, and affirmed that the treaties guarantee that “the European Union respects the territorial unity of each member state.”

In his judgement, that signifies that questions such as Scotland, Catalonia, the Basque Country or other cases “are not questions, in the first instance, of European law, but rather national questions which have to be dealt with, as much politically as legally, within the national framework of each member state.”

“And it is left to the EU to respect decisions taken within the constitutional framework of each one of its 28 member states, and afterwards,to negotiate the consequences which may come from these decisions for the Union in its totality,” he added.


Original Spanish version

En una entrevista concedida a Radio Euskadi, recogida por Europa Press, Vitorino ha afirmado que “el caso de Escocia debe ser arreglado en el marco de las reglas constitucionales de Reino Unido”, y si el resultado del referéndum es sí, “hay que pactar la salida de Escocia del Reino Unido”.

“Esto no va a ser inmediato. Esto tiene muchas implicaciones, implicaciones financieras, todo el debate sobre el futuro de la libra esterlina, de la moneda de una posible Escocia independiente”, ha añadido. Asimismo, ha señalado que hay “un punto muy importante”, en las negociaciones bilaterales entre Escocia y Reino Unido, y en las multilaterales, como es el Estatuto escocés “en el marco europeo”.

En este sentido, cree que se aplicará el artículo 49 del Tratado porque “hay un nuevo Estado que nace y ese nuevo Estado tiene que negociar”, por un lado, con Reino Unido; y por otro, con “los otros restantes 27 miembros de la UE la adhesión”.

A su juicio, hay gestiones jurídicas y políticas “en esta historia”, y ha precisado que él, como jurista, cree que “todas las gestiones jurídicas se arreglan”, mientras que “las políticas son mucho más complicadas”.


De esta forma, ha insistido que, si el resultado del referéndum es sí a la independencia, “la consecuencia no será inmediata porque exigirá una negociación política y una traducción jurídica”. “Pero, la verdad, es que la UE tiene un día 28 estados miembros y, si el referéndum dice sí, al día siguiente tendrá potencialmente 29”, ha afirmado.

Antonio Vitorino ha considerado que “los padres fundadores de la UE” abogan por “la unión cada vez más estrecha entre los pueblos”, y ha afirmado que los tratados aseguran que “la Unión Europea respeta la unidad territorial de cada Estado miembro”.

A su juicio, eso significa que cuestiones como la de Escocia, Cataluña, País Vasco u otros casos “no son cuestiones, en primera línea, de derecho europeo, sino cuestiones nacionales que tienen que ser arregladas, tanto política como jurídicamente en el marco nacional de cada estado miembro”.

“Y a la Unión le queda respetar las decisiones tomadas en el marco constitucional de cada uno de sus 28 estados miembros y, después, negociar las consecuencias que pueden venir de estas decisiones para la Unión en su conjunto”, ha añadido.

0 thoughts on “Another Portuguese politician, Scotland and the EU

  1. Pingback: Another Portuguese politician, Scotland and the EU - Speymouth

  2. Yeah, new state.

    And that is what it all hangs on. The nature of the positions post any YES vote. As I understand it for dissolution of a treaty… see article 48 and an argument for continuance of effect. For secession (or creation of a new state) followed by accession to EU… see article 49. Is that correct?

    Either way it appears Mr Vitorino sees little problem for a speedy 29th member.

  3. V
    Venceremos!, indeed!!!

    Looks like they – the Unionistas – are well and truly stuffed come the Referendum on all fronts.

    La Passionaria jigging in her grave?

  4. A more accurate legal position I feel is that both Scotland and England(inclusive of the province of Ulster, principality if Wales ect..) will be two new countries. The treaty that created the UK having been dissolved the UK would cease to exist. The Kingdom of England would be legaly just another carbon copy of the UK as would Scotland. The origonal version in “the dust bin of history” with the Austro-hungarian Empire. Just because that empire ceased did not relieve the new states of their treaty obligations entered into while it existed.

    The UK government paid for a rather shabby legal opinion that both tries to get all the advatages of claiming a treaty of union exists between Scotland and England while at the same time claiming Scotland ceased to exist after 1707. Even while at the same time the UK government homologates the articles of that treaty in the areas of education and the Scots Law system. If you take particular attention to statements by the Westminster NO campaign politicians they are all carefull to say “continuing UK”. They are quite determined to portray the UK as the same country with a little bit trimmed off the fringe. So you can expect if the time comes for them to keep the Union Flag and still say they are the government of the UK (deleting Scotland from the title perhaps sticking on Berwick). You can almost hear the ridicule growing already. The legal opinion is like a 19th century great power pretext and shows just how backward and parochial the UK governmental system has become even setting aside the prescence of hereditary style aristocrats in its second chamber.

    • I’ve always been of a similar opinion. The remainder of the UK can call itself what it likes after Scottish independence, but it is not the United Kingdom which was created in 1707 with the Treaty of Union. It was that United Kingdom which signed the EU Treaties, not Scotland and not England-Wales-NI. So I was interested when Vitorino said that he thought the legal issues surrounding Scottish EU membership could be quickly resolved – because it seems to me that depends upon Scotland accepting the view that Scotland is a new state whereas the remainder of the UK represents a continuing UK, when there is no longer a UK to continue. Scotland is hardly likely to accept that view if the rUK is proving obstructionist in other areas of the independence negotiations and could easily mount a legal challenge. In fact an ordinary Scottish citizen could do so if they believed that the rUK blagging sole successor state status has prejudiced the rights of Scottish citizens as EU citizens. So we’re in for interesting times.

      The Scottish Government has been very quiet on this point. I suspect they’re holding back on it so they can use it to batter Westminster over the heid during indy negotiations.

      The Unionists usually bring up the Union of 1801 with Ireland as superceding the previous Union. But that’s a red herring. Ireland’s parliament was not a sovereign parliament. Membership of the Parliament was conditional upon fealty to the monarchs of England, and Ireland was a possession of the English Crown. After 1707 the Irish Parliament was subordinate to the Westminster Parliament and had no power over the legislative branch of government. The Parliament was an instrument of British colonialist rule in Ireland, the native Irish majority was barred from membership of the Parliament and from state offices. The Union of 1801 was therefore an internal administrative measure within the dominions of the English Crown, it was not the union of two sovereign states who happened to share a monarch. Ireland was subsumed into the Union created by Scotland and England and its crown possessions in 1707.

      • Thanks for your offer to help recently, it’s much appreciated.

        “The Scottish Government has been very quiet on this point. I suspect they’re holding back on it so they can use it to batter Westminster over the heid during indy negotiations.”

        I’d agree. Holding back on quite a few things I reckon, like a possible ‘abdication’ after negotiations. Perhaps not the right word but you’ll get the idea….Sure it was mentioned during Tartan Week.

        On another note, did you know we’re to be invaded again?

      • I maybe wrong but I think the 1801 act of union with Ireland had no real substantive changes to the previous acts or treaty of union with Scotland. It was eventually repealed in 1962? With the act that paved the way for it, being done away with in 1983. The only item that referred to Scotland was to confirm the continued independence of the Church of Scotland.

        The 1801 acts cannot be used, as they no longer have any relevance – not even to Scotland.

        One argument that you can make is that it gave the Irish the means with which to finally bring the union and English control over their affairs, from around the mid 16th century to an end.

        If the treaty of Union is dissolved it would be interesting if the subsequent acts of Union could actually stand. It is by no means certain that it could.The laws in Wales acts were formally repealed in 1993 as it they were seen to be obsolete civil procedure. I am not really sure what legal framework replaced it. I guess subsequent acts of union may have added to it but its bones are to found in the 1707 treaty.

  5. great news an more debunking of the Bitter together argument against The EU .
    thanks again WGD. now off to post this to everyone i know, although i think they are quickly getting the point. Still . i’ll keep this up till the 18th . There is no where to run , or hide ………. I will find ya.

  6. Quick PS question please

    If Scotland votes YES (and it will ) won’t the rUK have to re-apply themselves to the EU?. The settlements they bargained for included Scottish assets too when the re-bate was made. ??

    It’s something that i have little knowledge of so would greatly appreciate any answers .

    My plan of attack on bitter together is the reverse of what they say to us Scots.
    What will rUK lose when Scotland goes. How much in tax , from oil and other industries ., not to mention over 5 million people less to represent. It has to make an impact.

    The rUK is to my mind the biggest loser here and it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to hear Mr Salmond finding an embarrassment of riches in the Scottish treasury. After all no – one really knows how much we Scots are worth and taking the current treasury figures along with everything else at Westminster on faith leads me to think we are being lied to. I dont trust this govt anymore and the MSM either.

    I have found asking on these sites far easier and more honest than trying to get info from the govt sites. The McCrone report makes me even more suspicious .

    • There’s a strong legal argument that the rUK would find itself in exactly the same position as Scotland vis a vis the EU after a yes vote. This was the opinion expressed to the arch Tory Norman Tebbit by an anonymous Labour former Lord Chancellor. Writing in the Telegraph in 2012, Tebbit wrote

      When I asked a former (Labour) Lord Chancellor if that would mean that the new state of Scotland would need to apply for EU membership, if that was its wish, he said he thought that would be so. Then after a moment’s thought he said: “But what about the new state of England, Northern Ireland and Wales? Would we remain members? After all our new state would not have been a party to the Treaty either.”

      I think that’s what Vitorino was getting at when he said, in essence, that the EU would hope that Scotland and the rUK would sort things out between themselves while the EU would be obliged to accept and respect the result.

      The UK traded certain Scottish assets, most notably fishing rights, in return for concessions from the EU in other areas. After Scottish independence, the rUK will have to renegotiate those matters with other EU members if they wish to retain their existing opt outs and concessions. So there is definitely a big impact on the rUK’s EU membership.

      As for Treasury statistics and how much an iScotland would have in the kitty – think of it this way. The UK Treasury collects all government revenue and knows where it comes from. They allocate all UK government spending and know where the money goes. If Scotland is indeed subsidised by English taxpayers, the UK Government could have published the full figures in 2012 and killed the independence campaign before it even got started.

      But they didn’t do that. Instead we get obscurantism, dense paper trails, and economic projections forecasting doom that assume Scotland will continue with UK spending plans and priorities, and the figures they have published have been deconstructed and debunked often within hours of publication and shown to be fundamentally flawed – like Osborne’s attempt to claim that Scotland’s banking sector is disproportionately large, a figure he could only arrive at by including debts which would properly be the responsibility of the rUK after Scottish independence. Calculating Scotland’s true economic worth to the UK and the spending we get in return has proven very difficult, and it’s being made difficult by the UK Treasury.

      I think that tells us all we need to know. You only need to dissemble and misinform if the truth counts against you.

      • Thank you for that , everyone. I’m in for a long night of reading and copying to get this out.The mis-information that we get is a nightmare to get through even when de- bunked , it keeps coming back.

        I always look at both sides of any argument and try to find balance, but the scares and smears hide the fact that rUK will be in the same position as we are.

        Also the fact we don’t know our own value is shocking. The simple fact we have worth would guarantee a YES vote. And makes me feel even more suspicious .

        again thanks

      • The tree of Liberty .big thanks you must have contacts in BFS.

        just been on sit at business for Scotland and they have an article talking of the wealth of our country and it’s pretty good reading . We have so much to offer and build with ,it’s not pie in the sky i, it’s real hope.

        But i’d still like to see what the impact on rUk would be like . If its as bad as i fear then i wont blame the buggers for hiding it all. I have no grievance with the rUK , and have family in the midlands. It will be poor and unemployed who will suffer. Although my sympathies are slowly being drained with the rhetoric from some of the comments coming from “little englanders”

        I fear for the rUK but not enough to change my vote (ever) and it would be good to have some ammo for later when the bitterness get even worse , as it will.

  7. If the EU insists on new membership under article 49 for Scotland alone or Scotland and rUK, then all the work getting everything agreed up to 2020 (Under Eire’s leadership) goes down the drain, and everything and I mean everything has to be renegotiated from scratch.

    If the EU goes for the split UK parts going for “continuity of effect” under article 48 they could have negotiations between Holyrood and London (with EU monitors) divvying the split of the current UK position until 2020.

    Are there any other countries that have anything like the Union treaties that would have a problem with the precedent being set for the dissolution of a union rather than a secession?

    If you were an EU state or an EU bureaucrat which would you go for? I do think Mr Salmond knows what he is doing.

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  9. I don’t understand why people go on about this ? Don’t you get that Scotland is already a member of the EU, and even these dumb politicians don’t get it, the only thing that will happen is that the contract we are signed up to with the rUK will change, under already established standard contract law, “WE ARE ALREADY MEMBERS OF THE EU” no need to reapply, no need for anyone’s permission, just a change of contract by the court of justice, simple, believe it.

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