Coffee House

Is there a difference between voting to get out of the UK and voting to get out of the EU?

20 February 2014

Those of us who want a referendum on the European Union need to be cautious in our approach to the Scottish one. What is sauce for Alex Salmond’s goose may prove sauce for the European gander. We should not assume, for example, that José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, is telling the truth. Or take the argument that business is opposed to Scottish independence. The CBI and suchlike always favour the current arrangements and fear uncertainty. They will oppose British independence even more surely than Scottish. They are not always wrong, but their view should not be credulously accepted. Mr Salmond is right that the threats made by the powers that be in a campaign are very different from what they say after a clear result. I have a nasty feeling he may be accurate when he predicts that ‘rUK’ would end up offering a Yes-voting Scotland currency union: it will not want a new beggar for its neighbour. When the main parties get together and agree about something — as they did, for example, about the ERM or the Climate Change Act — is when they most risk going wrong. As it happens, I think they are right about the danger of letting an independent Scotland ‘keep the pound’, but beware a mighty establishment moving one way.

Is there a fundamental difference, then, between voting to get out of the United Kingdom and voting to get out of the EU? If the EU had a 300-year history as a working entity, probably not. It would seem perverse to leave. But it has no such history. The difference is best expressed, oddly enough, by Nicola Sturgeon, Mr Salmond’s deputy. Speaking of the currency, she says what Scotland wants is ‘a continuity of effect’. She does not realise that such continuity is best secured by the simple device of voting No. Staying in the EU, on the other hand, has little continuity of effect: it signs us up for yet more constitutional and monetary ventures into the unknown.

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  • Eyesee

    The difference is that the EU is dangerous now and intends to do worse in future and the complaint the Scots have is 300 years old. It would be wrong to forget about the land clearances, but pointless to dwell on it.

    • Wessex Man

      erm it was the Clan Chieftans who cleared the land of their own Clans!

  • greggf

    “I have a nasty feeling he may be accurate when he predicts that ‘rUK’ would end up offering a Yes-voting Scotland currency union: it will not want a new beggar for its neighbour.”

    Yes that’s always possible. Consensus in Westminster is always suspicious and usually wrong.
    But what was the politic about currency when the Republic of Ireland left in 1918? Was the Punt shadowing sterling agreed, foreseen or just ad hoc?

  • rosebery

    I shall, certainly, vote differently in each of the two referendums, should the second ever take place.

    • MichtyMe

      Do you think that will require you to perform some intellectual gymnastics?

  • Frank

    Odd article. I do not see why all these votes have to be seen as creating something that is then set in concrete. Time brings change and I think that entities evolve. For example, I can see Scotland going independent and then asking to be re-united with the rest of Britain in 10, 15 years (and perhaps we should encourage this, in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as it might encourage a more aware engagement with the union?). I fail to see Britain wanting to re-unite with the EU unless on a profoundly different basis to today.
    I do however think that the current endless listing of all the things that will go wrong if Scotland opts out is likely to be very counter-productive. Face it, if Luxembourg can cope, Scotland can.

    • Wessex Man

      Once they’re gone they are gone never to come back again!

  • JonBW

    Except that devolution has destroyed the basis of democracy within the UK; the choice should be independence or a single nation with a single, sovereign parliament.

    And the English should have a vote.

    • Wessex Man

      only for the fact that I would with millions of others vote for the Scots to leave!

  • abystander

    Barroso isn’t very good, is he?

  • rtj1211

    I guess from a Scottish point of you you have to ask the question as to whether the 300 years shows that something worked or merely that the prison warders were particularly diligent in preventing break-outs over a long time period.

    I have to say that Scots were not backward in taking advantage of the financial, diplomatic and military zeniths of British history, but the exploits of the few may mirror the long-term feelings of the majority.

    Time will tell…….

  • London Calling

    Tis true we have our history entwined, The EU have none other than a man made power game of chance and opportunity to rip off all countries involved……:(

    Scotland please unite us…….David Bowie is right ‘Don’t Leave………..:)’

  • London Calling


    • London Calling

      my error………. oops sorry :)

      • London Calling

        Follow the Money?………..doesn’t Salmond mean the EU?….:O

  • Denis_Cooper

    I have to admit that I have been surprised by the strength of the interventions from Barroso and Rumpy-Pumpy.

    There’s nothing new about the assertion that under the present EU treaties if Scotland left the UK then as a natural and automatic consequence it would also be leaving the EU, and that obviously must be correct given that the word “Scotland” does not even appear anywhere in those present EU treaties and so Scotland could not become an EU member state without them being changed.

    Nor is there anything new about the next assertion that Scotland would have to wait until it was independent and then apply for accession to the EU under Article 49 TEU, although I’ve always assumed that instead the necessary treaty changes would be made under Article 48 TEU to come into force at the same instant as the final separation of Scotland from the UK, so that there would be a seamless transition from Scotland being in the EU as part of the UK to Scotland being in the EU as a new member state in its own sovereign right, but with some other EU member state governments demanding and getting a price for their agreement to those treaty changes.

    What is new is Barroso’s assertion that Scotland’s accession to the EU would be “very difficult, if not impossible”:

    in which he has since been supported by Rumpy-Pumpy:

    I’m puzzled why they have moved on to that hardline position.

    It seems very unlikely that they have said it to oblige Cameron, and nor do I think they would have said it unless they knew that Merkel agreed with it; if Merkel wanted to make it easy for Scotland to become a new EU member state then
    she could no doubt do that, persuading any other EU member state governments
    which objected round to her view by some mixture of threats and bribes.

    • Tom M

      I was surprised that Barosso had the temerity to predict the result of an EU vote as to whether Scotland would become a member of the EU or not. I would have thought some democratic statesman like statement along the lines of ” well it will need to be discussed and voted upon before we know what other countries are happy to do”.

      • Denis_Cooper

        It would have to be a unanimous decision, so it is easier for them to predict the outcome than if it could be decided by a majority vote.

        Maybe it has become clear that several governments – Spain, Belgium, Italy, possibly the Netherlands – would adamantly oppose Scotland being allowed to stay in the EU if its population had voted to break up the UK, to deter their own separatist movements, and that Merkel would not be prepared to lean on those objectors, and it only needs one of them to stick out against it.

        Previously Barroso was a lot more circumspect about it, and I don’t think Van Rompuy had said anything about it before, which is why it’s striking that they are now both taking such a hard line.

        • BarkingAtTreehuggers

          The goal posts have been shifted.

          Europe is no longer solely about politics, it will be increasingly about integration of monetary policy. The countries you care to list face national issues with regards to the separation of *politics*, yet a breakup of any of those nations, in particular Belgium or Spain would not alter the *monetary* dimension as they would for all intents and purposes remain part of the club.

          In this respect the Scottish independence question breaks entirely new ground as the welcoming of Scotland to the Euro currency zone would be a classic case of expanding the realm. For that reason Frankfurt would not oppose it.

          • Denis_Cooper

            I assumed that Merkel would agree to Scotland taking a short cut to EU membership under Article 48 TEU, and she would lean on any objectors, but she would demand a price of which the main part would be a commitment to join the euro just as if Scotland had taken the long route of applying for membership under Article 49 TEU.



            is the first time I have read that Germany may also have “misgivings” about allowing Scotland to take even the long route back into the EU if it had become independent.

            The question which arises is how Scotland would trade with other countries, including the rest of the present UK, while it was outside the EU and therefore the EU Single Market, and outside all of the EU trade agreements with third countries, and initially not even a member of the WTO.

            • BarkingAtTreehuggers

              the scenario that Scotland finds itself outside the EU single market will not arise.

              • Denis_Cooper

                The question is how it would be avoided.

                • BarkingAtTreehuggers

                  If Scotland vote YES this would not desolve monetary arrangements. Far from it, all would continue as normal, medium-term fiscal independence would lead to long-term monetary arrangements in the interest of the Scottish people. It strikes me that those in the NO camp wish to conflate everything and make the simple question of independence a question of life and death. The bitter truth is it isn’t.

                • Denis_Cooper

                  We only have a monetary union because of Article XVI of the 1707 Treaty of Union which Salmond wishes to terminate.

                • BarkingAtTreehuggers

                  Yes, of course, and he got Osborne, Alexander and Balls to deliver the message in unison. What a blinder that was!

                • Wessex Man

                  are you for real?

                • BarkingAtTreehuggers

                  Wessex Man, is this the way of indicating that you would like to partake in a discussion? If so may I suggest you are failing fairly and squarely?
                  If you were a Scot and told by THREE Westminister ineptocrats in unison that you could not have what you desired, what message would that send and why would you want to send such a message? ‘Unreal’ indeed.

                • Wessex Man

                  it certainly is, just because you are a Scot doesn’t mean when you stamp your feet and say ‘I want this, that and the other, all the time telling pork pies.’ that you are going to get it.

                  It seems that much like the majority of the English people I speak to the UK Westminister Village and the EU have decided to tell the schoolboy bully that is the Fat Controller to behave himself!

                  Why wouldn’t want Scotland rid itself of the Millstone from around it’s neck? Or do you think that the Fat Controller, who congradulated Fred Goodwin on setting RBS on it’s road to meltdown or talked so fondly of the Arc of Golden Prosperity which was Ireland, Iceland and Scotland might just have been found out!

      • Conway

        I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that the decision had been stitched up – that’s the way the EU works!

    • Conway

      The Spanish would not be at all keen to encourage the Catalans, for example, to break away. If Scotland could do it and join the EU, so could any separatist area.

      • Jambo25

        Yet there has been no hint from the Spanish government that they would oppose Scottish entry.

        • Denis_Cooper

          Really? Not even the tiniest hint?

          Oh, and at the end there is this:

          “And sources have told Channel 4 News’s Political Editor Gary Gibbon that Mr Barroso thinks it’s not just Spain who might block entry for Scotland: Germany and Belgium have misgivings too.”

          • Jambo25

            Or you could do what I did and look up the meetings of the European and External Relations Committee of the Scottish Parliament which has taken hours of testimony from a whole series of expert witnesses. Ex European judges, senior EU civil servants, political advisers to major EU figures. etc. Most of them are unionists. None of them have come out with the scare stories. However, stick with what somebody may or may not have told Gary Gibbon behind the Westminster bike shed.

            • Denis_Cooper

              What scare stories?

              For years the SNP tried to dupe the population with the claim that an independent Scotland would automatically stay in the EU as a member state, in fact it was only a few days ago that Swinney repeated the straight lie that Scotland has been a “member” of the EU for 40 years:


              To copy and paste part of my comment on that lie:
              “Again and again, the deliberate pretence that Scotland has been a “member” of the EU since 1972, even when that is directly refuted and it is pointed out that Scotland has only been in the EU as a part of the UK and not in its own sovereign right, and if it ceases to be a part of the UK then under the present EU treaties it also automatically ceases to be a part of the EU.”
              When repeatedly told that this would not be the case, and once it was no longer part of the UK then Scotland would cease to be part of the EU under the present EU treaties – which do not include any reference at all to Scotland, the very word does not appear anywhere – and so would then have to apply for membership, the SNP started to say that Scotland would not have to take that long route, it could be allowed to use a short cut during the interval between a “yes” vote in the referendum and the final separation – and I agreed with that, on the assumption that Merkel would be prepared to make that happen, but at a price, a toll at least equivalent to that imposed on the long route.
              Now it seems that Merkel might not be prepared to make that happen, and Scotland might not have that short cut opened up, but also even worse than that she might not be willing to force others to open up the long route either.
              In all those hours of testimony at Holyrood, is there anything to confirm that in the event of a “yes” vote Merkel would support immediate efforts of the Scottish government to keep Scotland in the EU, or even later efforts to get Scotland back in the EU?

              • BarkingAtTreehuggers

                You misread the entire process and procedure. Scotland must be seen *wanting* to become independent. if the Scottish people do not declare that, if they are not gripped by the opportunity that brings, then they will not deserve it to happen and it won’t happen. There is no free lunch, this will be difficult, if not impossible – that mean ‘you, Scotland, need to want it’.
                Once that is resolved then anything is possible. Anything. And Frankfurt or Berlin would be the last to oppose an expansion of the realm (!)

                • Denis_Cooper

                  Well, thank you for that wise insight … based on what?

                • BarkingAtTreehuggers

                  Based on the fact that a mere 60 million punters can and are no longer willing to support worldwide Anglo-American banking cartels. The Scots reject Square Mile activity.
                  That is the bitter truth – they want to rid themselves of this immense burden – they are more ‘Icelandic’ in spirit than the London-centrics would believe.

                  That is my take on the reality on the ground. Now prove me wrong.

              • Jambo25

                Why don’t you actually look at the Committee’s proceedings. That’s what I did. I never said that Merkel would make anything happen nor did anyone in front of the Committee. Once again look at he proceedings.

                • Denis_Cooper

                  Why should I waste my time looking at the proceedings when you have already looked at them, and so straight off you should be able to point to any indication therein that Merkel would be prepared to weigh in your side, rather sorting out those who would want to make life for an independent Scotland as awkward as possible to deter their own separatist movements?

                  I suggest Salmond should write to her and ask what her attitude would be if the Scots voted to break away from the UK, saying that he would like to be able to publish her reply in order to clarify matters.

    • Wessex Man

      well they’ve probably realised how much Scotland will cost the EU when it all goes south!

  • The Laughing Cavalier

    The CBI may not be wrong always but it is more often than not and can be counted upon to take the lazy, self-serving option.

    • Conway

      Weren’t the CBI telling us we would be doomed if we didn’t join the euro?

  • SimonToo

    There need be no difference. Were Scotland to vote for independence, the union of the two kingdoms would be dissolved. It would be just that, the dissolution of a union, not the breaking away of a province. As such, it seems only fair that if England keeps the pound sterling, Scotland should keep the EU membership. England can apply to join in the fullness of time, when the moment is right, as the electorate thinks best.,

    • Conway

      Would that Scotland could have our EU membership, but alas, we shall be the inheritor of that burden. Why would anybody (other than countries that were looking for a handout from those who were net contributors) ever want to join the EU?

      • SimonToo

        But why do you consider that we (presumably England) should have to be the inheritor, particularly if Scotland wants it so ? There seems no obvious necessity for it to go to England rather than to Scotland.

  • Q46

    However it is easy enough to see that the UK outside the EU would still have its own currency, its own fiscal and monetary policy, its same industrial base and economy, the same Government, its own World-beater financial centre, there won’t be a flight of either business or people somewhere else.

    None of that is certain for an independent Scotland.

    I would not trust anyone from the EC as far as I could spit them.

    • rtj1211

      I don’t think the UK would have a world-beater financial centre, it would host one. That financial centre is not world-beating for the UK as it is focussed globally, not nationally.

      It really would be quite nice to have a world class domestic financial services industry, but actually we have a fairly crap one.

      • Liberty

        You make no sense. Any big successful industry is focussed globally rather than nationally. US films and IT, Middle East oil, German car manufacturing, China’s manufacturing – all global and not national. And we do not have a crap financial services industry, it is the biggest and best in the world and earns loads of money for the UK. It is more important for us than Google is to the US. What is your problem?

  • Kitty MLB

    Yes there is in my humble opinion, and Alex Salmond
    is just a little man with his own agenda, who will probably be the destruction
    of Scotland, he doesn’t even know what currency he will be getting.
    Scotland has a lot by being part of a union with a much larger country,
    they have the generous Bartlett’s formula, and various other benefits,
    they have a tremendous amount of whinging MP’s in Westminster
    (with the exception of the delightful Angus Robertson) who have a say
    on how the UK is run.
    There is no geographical connection with the EU – thank good,
    we do not share the same currency,
    they are anti democratic, we are having a sensible debate about the issue,
    this country has no benefits by being a member if the EU-
    Quite aware this is a double edged sword mind you.

    • telemachus

      Salmond is not little
      He is a very large tub of lard
      He will not do anything other than strengthen Scotland however
      He will lose the referendum but knows that to keep our north of the border Labour MP’s we will promise Scots the moon to deliver on victory in May 2014

      • Kitty MLB

        I see him more as a big balloon, full of hot air.
        As the sun shines through the early morning mist,
        wee Eck will float off to his abyss.
        I wonder if Devo Max will be on the cards at some point.
        Mind you, I would not miss the huge amount of Labour MP’s
        if they all wandered back to the hills of Scotland.

        • telemachus

          Devo Max is guaranteed
          As is the continuance of the large numbers of Westminster Labour MP’s
          Thank God

          • greggf

            Indeed it’s already started: Reuters report that the UK government granted Scotland the power to raise debt in its own name on Wednesday, 19/2/2014, in a move aimed at showing Scots that they can enjoy some benefits of independence while remaining part of the United Kingdom….!

  • BarkingAtTreehuggers

    The difference boils down to one thing: money.
    And the workforce that nowadays is the guaranteed ‘collateral’ of that currency.
    A rumpUK does not feature…

    Location, Total Population, GDP in $TN, Cities>5m

    Europe, 770m, 21, 10
    North America, 350m, 18.5, 10
    Latin America, 600m, 6, 8
    East Asia, 1570m, 15, 39

  • MichtyMe

    The UK union may be much older than EU but the reasons for its creation are also long in the past. Religion, Dynastic succession and to secure a frontier from continental invasion, it was not founded to organise welfare and the other stuff modern government does, which could be satisfactorily decided by national governments.

  • ChuckieStane

    The approach of eurosceptics towards the Scottish independence has been interesting. Never before have Rajoy, Barosso and van Rompoy been so feted. These three men must be listened to. Scotland will be cast out of Europe and not re-admitted.

    Cameron’s in-out referendum is predicated on a supposed renegotiated treaty. We are told the 28 nations will never agree to letting Scotland in but they will roll-over allow the UK to renegotiate. Chances are there will be no renegotiation so no in-out referendum.

    The great irony is that a Scottish Yes vote would set grounds for immediate renegotiation for EWNI, within the life of this parliament. Cameron could then set the wheels in motion for an in-out referendum and the UKIP bubble would be burst.

    The UK government seems to be driven either by a fear of losing Scotland or by the desire to be the sole successor state at all costs…..

    or perhaps Cameron does not want an EU in-out vote as much as he claims.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Bingo. It took until your last sentence, but you’ve grasped it.

    • allymax bruce

      Some good analysis there, Chuckie.

    • Conway

      Of course Cameron doesn’t want an in-out vote on the EU. He wants an in/in one – ie, he will get some minor adjustment, claim it repatriates power and ask do we wish to remain in the EU or be in the “renegotiated” EU. After all, he has said he wouldn’t want us to leave. I never used to be so cynical but I have learned from the 1975 referendum.

  • In2minds

    Does Cameron want full independence or DevoMax?

    • Geronimo von Huxley

      How can that even be a question, man? It’s obvious man!

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Dave wants those miserable plebs in Jockistan to just shut up and do as they’re told.

  • HookesLaw

    A pretty inept and dim analysis. Mr Moore returns to form.
    We are not in any monetary union with the EU and for the same reason we do not want a monetary union with anyone else – and rUK would be no different. In any event just as the UK would need a referendum to join any monetary union so would rUK.
    I would not vote for any monetary union with anyone.
    The very fact that the Eurozone element of the EU will probably wish closer union is why we the UK need to have renegotiations and a referendum. Under the tories it will happen.
    Labour being opposed to renegotiations hints that they might like a currency union yet kippers are acting to put labour in power

    Salmond offers the same as UKIP – a pig in a poke.
    Like Salmond, Farage relies on knee jerk unthinking crass xenophobia and crypto racism.

    • Wessex Man

      If I could be bothered, I’d be fuming that my post in reply to Hooky’s spiteful comment above was under moderation and has now gone for ever. I can’t be bothered to get to fume so will try in another way!

      Mr Hook, I have said before that if you are going to accuse UKip of having a hatred of foreigners please name those UKip members who have expressed such hatred.

      You’ve never once answered any of my quite reasonable requests for where you get your figures from when you bother to use them as a counter argument agains us. you have descended into bitter name calling because your tired old arguments are worn out.

      It wasn’t one of my political party who organised a German National Socialist night and then blamed others when he realised that it might not look so good him being a MP.

    • Wessex Man

      Just what’s going on here? I’ve had two perfectly restrained comments in reply to Hooky taken down! Is it now OK for this boring old fool to say such things about UKip without a right of reply?

      • Wessex Man

        and for that matter about the SNP!

  • MichtyMe

    For folks who have doubts as to the veracity of Barroso’s babble.

    • Tony_E

      The question is now one of law, it’s one of politics. Certain rules will be used to make Scotland’s passage more difficult.

      The need for a central bank will be paramount, because it cannot enter into any currency union except for the Euro and still be compliant with single market rules. This will give the others a chance to make it harder for Scotland to stay out of the Eurozone (and easier to isolate the English as soon as that transition occurs, which is the entire point).

      Don’t underestimate the Spanish either, or the French who for their own reasons would like to isolate England or force it into the Eurozone under the next labour government – thereby subjecting the City of London to its control. They will not want to cede any ground in pursuing their own interests.

      Part of the reason that any UK renegotiation in the EU will be fruitless is that most of what will be required to get what we want will be in the form of pork barrel returns to individual nation states, all of which will be unacceptable or difficult to negotiate. Scots will find significant problems for the same reasons – the members will want to extract their pound of flesh, just like they did in 72 when the CFP was suddenly put on the table as a finished article – with no prior warning on the eve of our joining.

      It won’t matter what anyone says about the EU in the run up – you just won’t know until there is something for the other nation states to gain, such is the dishonesty of the whole project.

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