On November 7 The Southern published an article about a report by Professor Robert Wright on how a newly-independent Scotland would have to sign up to the Schengen agreement, thus leading to border controls between ourselves and the rest of the UK.
What the article failed to make clear was Professor Wright’s belief that it was in Scotland’s interests to join Schengen, that this would lead to the Republic of Ireland following suit, thus leaving the Common Travel Area (CTA) between the UK and the republic impossible to maintain.
Peter Heald (letters, November 14) brought up the formulation of the “acquis communautaire” in the EU, explaining that this was “the whole corpus of existing EU laws and regulations which every new member is required to accept in full. No cherry-picking allowed”.
This all sounds very final and precise, except that Croatia, which only joined the EU in July of this year, decided to accept Schengen, but has so far given the euro a body swerve. Bulgaria and Romania, who both joined in 2007, have also abandoned their deadlines for entering the euro.
All three countries have retained a stated aim of joining the euro at some point when it suits them, but, as Sweden has shown, that point doesn’t ever have to actually arrive.
These examples illustrate the fact that, even for new members, the EU does not impose conditions, but rather requires new members to agree that certain goals are desirable. The members themselves retain the initiative on when, and even whether, they conform to these goals.
The Better Together campaign insists we will be thrown out and have to beg our way back in. What mechanism does the EU possess to eject members? None whatsoever.
The EU is an expansive organisation which, given certain standards on human rights and freedom of trade, is keen to hang on to members and encourage more to join. When Greenland expressed its intention to leave the EU back in the 1990s, it took more than two years of negotiations to enable it to do so.
If the EU was to eject Scotland after a democratic vote on the self-determination of its people, it would be an ejection which flouted the stated democratic principles of the organisation.
What would happen to the rights of Scots as EU citizens? What about the status of the 60,000-odd EU citizens resident here and Scots resident in the rest of Europe? What about the flow of trade to and from Scotland, and the sudden exclusion of vessels from Scottish fishing grounds?
As a “succession” member, the starting point for Scotland’s negotiations with the EU would be that we are currently EU citizens, not in the Schengen area, but part of the CTA.
The CTA’s logic relates to the fact that our boundaries with the rest of Europe are maritime, and staying outside Schengen gives more control over movement over these boundaries, albeit at the expense of uninterrupted travel. This is accepted by the EU, and you can be sure that the UK and Ireland will be to the fore in any situation threatening the CTA, arguing for its retention. Given the remote possibility that Scotland decided to sign up to Schengen, the CTA would collapse. The UK simply cannot afford to erect and staff the barriers that would be needed to maintain it, and the outcry following the disruption to trade and travel south of the border were it to do so would be deafening.
So an independent Scotland faces either the near-certainty of a control-free border within the CTA, or the remote possibility of a control-free border within Schengen.
I think we can say confidently there will be no border controls with England upon independence.