Tag Archive: Secession


UK Politician Pushing for Vote on Leaving the EU

UK Member of Parliament Adam Afriyie is pushing for a referendum on whether or not the UK should leave the EU.  A referendum in the UK is a yes/no vote put to the people for their opinion on the subject so that the politicians know what the public opinion is on the proposed question.  Referendums are not binding on Parliament, despite the fact that they may represent the public’s opinion on the matter.  Afriyie is pushing for the referendum now so that there is time for negotiations before the next election, because he feels that the “EU member states would need to ‘accommodate’ British demands for reforms ‘if they wish us to remain’.”

TEU Article 50 sets forth the procedure for a member state to leave the EU.  (To find Article 50 in the text, use the search function in your browser to locate the article).  According to Article 50(1) the UK may leave by the requirements of its own constitution.  Article 50(2) provides that the “Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union.”  This provision indicates that prior to the UK’s leaving, both the EU and the UK would consider the possible future relationships between the former member state and the Union.  This provision might ease some of the worries of British citizens who fear the financial and societal repercussions of leaving the EU.

Whether leaving the European Union is truly in the best interests of the British people is a question for their government to decide, but under current EU law, it is possible for the UK to leave using the procedures set forth in the Article.

Dependent on the European Union for Independence

The Kingdom of Spain is facing another major crisis on top of its economic difficulty as the region of Catalonia threatens to secede and form its own independent democratic nation.  If Catalonia secedes, Spain will be losing one of its most economically prosperous regions, further driving Spain into impoverishment.  Catalonia seeks recognition from the European Union to establish its autonomy.  Catalonia claims that it is already a member of the EU because it is a region of the member state, Spain.  The region of Catalonia’s main issue is its status in the European Union, whether or not it is an automatic member or will be required to apply for membership.

If not accepted as an automatic member of the EU, Catalonia will need to fulfill conditions under the Copenhagen criteria in order to join the EU.  This requires a political, economic, and finally the fulfillment of the Maastricht Treaty; requiring each current member state as well as the European Parliament must agree to any enlargement.  Catalonia is a democracy that supports the Euro, is regionally wealthy, and therefore already meets most of the requirements to join the EU.  Catalonia faces difficulties dependent on whether or not the EU would automatically accept it as a member state if it does secede.

The ability to join automatically or require formal application and acceptance is a critical issue for the European Union.  If the EU were to allow the automatic acceptance of a member state’s regions, this acceptance authorization could cause serious division amongst the member states.  The automatic acceptance of a member state’s region into the EU would particularly affect Great Britain, Belgium, and Germany as each nation consists of regions with historically independent cultures.  On November 7th the Catalan President Artur Mas confronted the EU’s hesitant position by saying it would be “illogical” not to accept small, rich, pro-EU Catalonia as an automatic future member if it splits from Spain.  The EU is abstaining from discussing this issue until after the Catalan elections which will take place on November 25th 2012.

The Catalan elections occurring on November 25th are critical for Spain, the European Union, Catalonia, and restless regions of other EU member nations because the elections will force the European Union to take a position on regionalism.  President Artur Mas will seek to secede if his party wins the election, “The question will be if the EU is prepared to offer solutions to countries such as Catalonia, that have the will to be in Europe, that have the same rights as European citizens and that … only to change their political status.”

Scotland: Independence and EU Membership

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.

 




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