An imminent issue is whether Scotland, if it becomes independent, would automatically keep its European Union membership after seceding from the UK. This issue is being raised because there are clear accession rules as to how a State can join and withdraw from the European Union.

Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, announced his plans to hold a referendum in the fall of 2014 about Scotland leaving the UK and gaining independence. This announcement by Salmond created conflict between Edinburgh and London. Scotland and England were joined by the Act of Union, passed in 1707, which created the UK (which also includes Wales and Northern Ireland). As of today, the head of state of Scotland is Queen Elizabeth II and Scotland has its own government, legal system, and legislature along with representatives in the UK Parliament. The British government has stated that Scotland’s powers do not include constitutional issues and, therefore, a referendum on independence would be illegal. Regardless, the referendum would push the British government to meet with the Scottish government to further discuss the issue of Scotland’s plan for independence.

“A new state, if it wants to join the European Union, has to apply to become a member of the European Union like any state,” said European Commission President, Barroso. To join the EU, the applicant country must meet membership conditions (which include a free-market economy, a stable democracy and the rule of law, and the acceptance of all EU legislation, including of the euro), and then implement all EU rules and regulations. The process is explained in Article 49 of the TFEU. All current EU States must agree that the applying State may join the EU.

In addition to the legal and political issues surrounding Scotland’s independence, Scotland will face other obstacles trying to gain EU membership. The Scottish National Party (SNP) believes that Scotland will keep its current EU membership after its breakaway from the UK. Regional entities do not retain “special status under EU law”. Scotland now has imputed EU membership because the UK is an EU member state and Scotland is a regional entity of the UK. If Scotland secedes from the UK then it will no longer have EU membership and will have to apply for membership like any other county. Obtaining EU membership may be difficult for Scotland because Scotland would need the approval of the current member states including the UK. How likely is this? One cannot predict whether the UK would block Scotland’s entrance into the EU.