Jose Manuel Barroso has said before that Scotland would have to apply separately to join the EU if it became independent. But his remarks today on the Andrew Marr Show were far more pessimistic about the prospects of that application being successful. After the three main Westminster parties blew a hole in the reassuring argument that Alex Salmond has been making so far that Scotland could keep the pound, Barroso effectively reminded Scots this morning that a ‘Yes’ vote won’t just mean ‘Yes’ to independence, it will mean ‘Yes’ to leaving the EU too. He said:
‘First of all, I don’t want now to go into hypothetical questions. What I can say is the following: we respect the democratic process going on; it’s for the Scottish people and for the British citizens to decide about that, that future of Scotland. What you said is perfectly right – in case there is a new country, a new state coming out of a current member state, it will have to apply and – this is very important – the application and the accession to the European Union would have to be approved by all the other member states.
‘I don’t want to interfere, I repeat, on your referendum here and your democratic discussion here, but of course it will be extremely difficult to get the approval of all the other member states to have a new member coming from one member state. We have seen that Spain has been opposing even the recognition of Kosovo, for instance, so it’s to some extent a similar case because it’s a new country and so I believe it’s going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, a new member state coming out of one of our countries getting the agreement of the other [existing member states].’
Unsurprisingly, the SNP haven’t taken it well. Finance Minister John Swinney called Barroso’s remarks ‘preposterous’ on the Sunday Politics:
‘President Barroso’s remarks are pretty preposterous this morning. He’s set out his position linking and comparing Scotland to the situation in Kosovo. Scotland’s been a member of the EU for 40 years, we’re already part of the European Union.’
This is an interesting way of applying for membership. And an interesting way of viewing the Union: Swinney says ‘Scotland’s been a member of the Eu for 40 years’, but it’s Britain that has been a member. Barroso is saying that the EU regards the distinction as significant, even if the SNP doesn’t.
In a sense, the EU question is even more serious than that over the currency, as the SNP doesn’t have the wriggle room to set out ‘other options’ as it did after George Osborne, Ed Balls and Danny Alexander ruled out currency union between the rest of the UK and independent Scotland. And the choreography of this latest intervention from Barroso, straight after that cross-party pact on the pound and Mark Carney’s speech on the currency union, is extremely helpful to the ‘No’ campaign.