Thursday, May 21, 2015

Brexit: the Scottish question

Many firmly eurosceptic Tories think that if we quit the EU, we'll lose Scotland from the Union. This they tell me is why they will vote to stay in the EU.

I take the view that an independent Scotland would not be intolerable if we leave the EU. By now most eurosceptics appear to be settled on Efta as a solution or an interim negotiating platform, which retains our access to the single market. This makes sense. From the likes of Airbus and Deutsche Bank we've seen the usual hyperventilation about uncertainty, but retention of the single market cuts through all that.  Brexit makes very little difference to business as usual.

The only way the pro-EU forces can then win is to continue their deception that the EU is the single market. This is their only ace. We have two years with which to educate the public that much of the rules that govern the single market come from global bodies from the WTO to UNECE. As an independent nation we can influence the rules before they get anywhere near the EU. And so could Scotland.

Efta is an intergovernmental alliance rather than a supranational project, so Scotland would massively benefit if it did leave the Union.  For starters it could have many of the benefits that Iceland and Norway enjoys and also a seat at the NAFO and other bodies in the Nordic trade circle. Without such influence over things like Scottish fishing waters, there is very little point in leaving the Union but staying in the EU.

As an independent nation. Scotland would then have a voice and would probably have more to say at the top table on some issues than we do. It has a much stronger voice as a nation within a community of nations than a single bloc like the EU. Giving Scotland all the adult responsibilities that come with independence means reality will soon dampen some of the SNP's more, shall we say, ambitious ideas. It is likely the SNP would be thrown out of office post independence anyway.

Nothing will ever change the fact that Scotland is intimately intertwined with England and Wales so we have little to fear. Even as an independent state, London can still hold sway with Edinburgh. Without London, Scotland would be a weak voice in the EU and there is little to be said for Scotland rejoining if it has all the advantages of Efta. It's a gamble but as a partner nation in Efta with the remainder of the UK, we have a chance at shaping the world in ways we can't while the EU negotiates on our behalf. So what we should be saying to Scotland is give us our freedom from the EU and we'll give you yours. If then Scotland wishes to remain part of the Union and see where our independent future takes us, I'm good with that too.