Better Out Than In?
Posted on March 30th, 2018
by Rab Bruce’s Spider
Many of us are extremely concerned by what is happening in Catalonia and by the associated attempts by the Spanish Government to have Catalan politicians arrested elsewhere in Europe. We are equally concerned by the lack of action on the part of the EU.
Whether these issues should persuade us to turn our backs on the EU as an organisation is another matter. It must be said that, if Spain were not already a member, its current acts of political repression would probably bar it from joining the EU. Whether the EU has the power or the political will to expel a member country is debatable. Given the problems the UK is experiencing in the Brexit negotiations, Spain may well feel that the EU cannot easily turf it out as a member. Equally, the EU probably reckons it has enough on its plate coping with Brexit, so doesn’t want to be dragged into a Spexit situation. There may well be other sanctions the EU can impose, and let’s hope they start to get their act together and let the Spanish Government know that what they are doing is unacceptable.
Part of the problem for the EU is that, as an organisation, its official stance is to do nothing to upset the status quo within any member state. This is why they refuse to make any official announcement on whether an independent Scotland would be welcomed as a member in its own right. For political reasons, the EU does not wish to be seen to be supporting the break up of one of its own member states. The big issue they face is when the democratic will of a nation within a state is repressed by violence and intimidation. Quite how the EU will resolve this is a thorny question and one which, at present, they seem to be answering by doing nothing.
There are, though, some points to take from all this. The first, as has been mentioned before on this blog, is that the EU’s apparent paralysis in the face of rising fascism in Spain shows that the Brexit claims of it being an all-powerful super-state are very far from the reality of the situation.
Secondly, some people on social media have been claiming that the EU’s stance on Catalonia shows that an independent Scotland would not be welcomed as a member since the EU is against separation. This claim is, however, based on a serious case of false equivalence.
The EU is silent on Catalonia just as it is silent on Scottish independence. Once Scotland becomes a normal country again, though, that situation is very different. The EU would then be faced with a membership request from a new nation which already meets all of its membership criteria except that of having several year’s’ financial and economic data as an independent nation. Not that details of that nature prevented East Germany being quickly brought into full membership status when it reunified with West Germany. Given an opportunity to accept a new member whose citizens are already EU citizens and which has huge resources in terms of oil, renewable energy, fish and other foodstuffs, plus the potential to develop industries which decades of Westminster control has decimated, it would be a perverse decision to refuse Scotland membership. And that’s not even considering the political point which would allow the EU to stick up two metaphorical fingers to Westminster by accepting Scotland as a member while allowing England to go its own way as an isolated nation.
The other argument presented by Unionists who, it must be remembered, used fear of being thrown out of the EU as a weapon in Project Fear back in 2014, is now to ask the question of why you would want to give back all the post-Brexit powers to Brussels.
This is disingenuous in the extreme. The choice we face is to have the most important of these powers seized by Westminster and used to erode Scotland’s food and drinks industries, to impose things like fracking, and to do away with Human Rights. By joining the EU, Scotland would certainly cede some over-arching control to the EU, but it would have a voice to represent our nation and vote on all matters concerning EU legislation. As just one example, an independent Scotland could negotiate better terms for our fishing industry under the CFP than Westminster ever has. The powers ceded to the EU would be as nothing compared to the control Westminster intends to impose on us no matter how much our elected representatives might protest.
So, let’s admit that the EU has some major flaws, but let’s not kid ourselves that it is primarily an interfering political entity which controls our laws. As events in Spain, Hungary and Poland have shown, the EU generally lets member states get on with their own way of governing. I wish they would do something to reign in Spain’s brutality towards the Catalans, but nobody can claim they are oppressing a member state by interfering in internal affairs.
And no, I haven’t forgotten about what happened to Greece, but that was as much to do with neo-liberal economic thinking and the power of the European Banks. I didn’t like that situation either, but it’s not comparable to what is happening in Spain and Catalonia which is about an altogether different set of issues.
Getting back to the issue of Scotland, being a part of a much larger trading group will be an enormous advantage. Look at how quickly Donald Trump exempted the EU from trade tariffs on steel and aluminium when the EU promised counter-measures. Look at things like mobile phone roaming charges, at freedom of movement, and all the other things we take for granted but which are causing such headaches for Brexit. From the threat of flights being grounded, of cancer treatment being affected, of research virtually shutting down, of businesses being affected, of prices increasing and food going to waste in the fields because not enough migrant workers are available, we should by now be appreciating just what an integral part of our lives the EU has become.
Yes, the EU has many faults, but an independent Scotland would still be better off as part of the group than stuck outside with no influence whatsoever. Nothing in life is perfect, but remaining part of the EU presents more opportunities than threats, and it certainly presents more opportunities than we face if we stick to the xenophobic and isolated UK.
And if, after all that, you still want to leave the EU, prudence would suggest that obtaining independence must be the first priority. We can stick with the EU for a few years to see how Scotland’s economy and society compares to that of The RUK outside the EU. If we decide that we, too, would be better off leaving, then at least it would be our decision, not one imposed on us by our larger neighbour.