Scottish Independence through the Prism of European Union Law
In the previous post, we discussed Professor Crawford and Professor Boyle’s legal opinion on Scottish independence and set down the framework for state continuity, state succession and succession to membership of international organizations. In this post, we turn to the crux of their enquiry: would Scotland have to reapply to join the EU? In a word, their answer is “yes”. However, Crawford and Boyle are at pains to emphasize that this is, in legal terms, unknown territory:
“All this is not to suggest that it is inconceivable for Scotland automatically to be an EU member. The relevant EU organs or Member States might be willing to adjust the usual requirements for membership in the circumstances of Scotland’s case. But that would be a decision for them, probably made on the basis of negotiations; it is not required as a matter of international law, nor, at least on its face, by the EU legal order.” [para.164]
Monday, 11 February, may prove to be a decisive day in Holyrood’s quest for independence.
David Cameron presented a prelude of sorts on Sunday evening, issuing a statement which proclaimed: “Britain works well. Why break it?” Shortly thereafter, the UK Government announced that it would publish a legal opinion prepared by two eminent international lawyers, Professor James Crawford and Professor Alan Boyle of the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh respectively, on the legal aspects arising from Scottish independence. A pre-released summary indicated that the opinion would confirm the position held by the UK Government as well as the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso (expressed in a letter to the House of Lords), according to which an independent Scotland would become a new state in international law and would not “inherit” any of the treaty obligations of the UK, but would instead have to renegotiate and reapply to join international organizations, including the European Union. Continue reading