England's Comeuppance to EU Exit: Scots Exit UK

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 2/17/2013 07:32:00 AM
British politics are weird. No sooner did British Prime Minister David Cameron appease Eurosceptics within his party by promising a referendum on the UK remaining in the EU by 2017 that he warned the independence-minded Scottish National Party (SNP) about breaking away from the United Kingdom through a yes vote in their referendum scheduled for next year meaning its automatic exit from the EU. In other words, he is offering his compatriots a decisive break from the European project while threatening his Scottish peers that breaking away from the UK would mean they would no longer be in the EU. In one case, EU membership is cast by the same person in a negative light and in the other in a positive light depending on the audience in question. It hinges on the understanding that Scotland is far more positive about remaining in the EU than England is.

The question surrounds the meaning of nationhood for international treaties to which Scotland was privy to as part of the UK. If Scotland attains independence, will it have to go through the entire process all over again as a new nation? The weight of opinion says "yes":
The British government on Monday intensified its campaign to stop Scotland leaving the United Kingdom, publishing a legal opinion saying it would forfeit its membership of international bodies such as the European Union if it chose independence. The pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) that runs Scotland's devolved government plans to hold a referendum on emotionally charged subject next year, and has played down the impact of a "Yes" vote on Scotland's international status.

But the 57-page legal opinion - drafted for the British government by two independent experts on international law - said the implications could be far-reaching, likening the situation to the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union when Russia was declared the USSR's legal successor but the 14 other Soviet states had to forge their international relations anew. The overwhelming weight of international precedent suggested Scotland would be legally deemed a "new state", it said - a scenario that would force it to re-apply to join international bodies such as the EU, the United Nations and NATO.
Scotland is also holding on to the ideas that the English will readily allow the former to keep the pound and that (declining) revenues from the North Sea oil fields will keep the new state afloat:
The government's intervention came as a panel of experts, including two Nobel prize-winning economists, issued a report saying the SNP's plan to keep the British pound in the event of independence was a sound strategy, suggesting it would also be wise to keep the Bank of England as the central bank.

The SNP argues that North Sea oil revenues combined with Scotland's fishing, farming and whisky industries would be enough to keep an independent Scotland solvent. But critics say the oil is running out, that Scotland would lose disproportionately generous British government subsidies, and that it would struggle to raise enough tax to pay its bills.
It's a neat case of "what goes around comes around" to isolationist English alike those in the ruling Conservative Party: So you want to leave the EU but don't want to allow the Scots to leave the UK, eh? You likely can't have it both ways. And here's the clinching irony of it all: If the UK voted in a (Tory-sponsored) referendum to leave the EU, English parliamentarians cannot suggest that Scotland will lose the benefits of EU membership by declaring independence since they will all have left the European Union.

As I said, British politics are weird--more so if they involve Europe.There is impeccable retro-imperial logic to it all in that Rule Britannia would of course not have tolerated supranational authority alike the EU while thinking it impossible that Scotland could ever break away.