This article is from mid-week and I missed it then but I totally agree with what Kenny MacAskill, Alba MP, is saying regarding our future relationship with the EU. The reason for this post is that I was having this discussion with a friend yesterday who is a staunch remain voter and I was trying to make the same point that Kenny is making here. The SNP are making a huge mistake to pin their mast to EU membership at this point, Kenny says “simply trumpeting about going back into the EU won’t wash”. While I totally accept that 62% of those who voted in 2016 voted remain, 38% voted leave, and many of them are independence supporters. Now I appreciate that leaving the EU has caused, and is causing by the day, many problems, but I am one of the 38% and I don’t regret that vote. Without the UK leaving the European Union we would not even be having a discussion about independence at all in my opinion.
However, as Iain Lawson and Jim Fairlie pointed out in last Wednesday’s Prism on Yours for Scotland Independence is about Sovereignty ‘ sovereignty is a government which has complete authority over the operations in a geographical territory or state’ , and wither you like it or not the EU like the UK, is shared sovereignty, and poses the question the unionists love, why leave one union for another union? No matter if one gives more control and is more equal it is a union all the same where you have to agree to share sovereignty and there will be times when you have no control as not everything is covered by a veto. Many of on us the YES side of the debate know on a daily basis what no control means, just look at the state of the UK and Scotland within it.
Kenny Macaskill goes on to point out that “Re-joining the EU would necessitate a hard border with the rest of the UK, which is an anathema to many and undermines the case for independence”. That is a huge stick to beat the cause of independence with and one that the unionists will play for everything it is worth, and it will cost votes, a lot of votes. Now where Alba are correct is when they say “The secure position that Scotland should be looking for, is membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), and through EFTA, membership of the single market and the European Economic Area”. This is the correct starting point and Westminster will no doubt make threats regarding membership of it and use their media to spread lies but it is the only sensible way ahead.
We need to be clear here that the SNP policy “that EU membership delivers many social, economic and cultural benefits for individuals, businesses and communities across Scotland. We believe that the best way to build a more prosperous and equal Scotland is to be a full independent member of the EU” is not the right policy at this time in the debate at all, it could not be more wrong. Any membership of the EU in future, as I said, has to be decided by the voters in an independent Scotland via a referendum and we need to be clear on that from the start.
I have talked previously about the need to try to move away from the SNP bashing that I am, in my opinion rightfully guilty of in this blog, onto policy matters and the Alba Party is how we get that debate moving, how we start to build the new case for independence in Scotland. The only way we are going to change the minds of SNP members on the need for action is to shift the focus onto policy areas where they can debate them within their own party, so while I will continue to hold the SNP to account, and especially Nicola Sturgeon, I also hope to start to pose some questions on policy and encourage as many of you as possible to join that debate, I would love you to join the only true parties of independence now the Alba Party or ISP, but only you can decide that but we can at least shift the focus to the case for independence so I am glad that Kenny MacAskill Alba MP has raised this issue as it could be the start of that discussion.
Kenny says at the end of his article “but go forward Scotland must” he is spot on, let’s get planning because the unionists are and we are behind the curve.
“The secure position that Scotland should be looking for, is membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), and through EFTA, membership of the single market and the European Economic Area”.
It is also the only sensible position – we avoid entering the Common Fisheries Policy so hated by the majority of Scotland’s fishing communities (especially in the North East where we need to gain and retain pro-Indy votes) and we recover the Four Freedoms of capital, labour, goods and services in one fell swoop.
It is the sensible half-way house until we are in a position to let the Scottish population decide what our longer term preference is via our relationship with continental Europe.
I think so and I think it is time we started to put all of these ideas together now and put the case forward. I don’t want to see another white paper, that was too long for most people to read, it was more for the media and the politicians/academics. We need a revamped Wee Blue Book, even see if Stuart Campbell wants to get involved in it again and all of our ideas go into it and we look at home we afford to send it to every home in Scotland before the next referendum.
Thanks for commenting.
Just a mess.
Rejoining the EEA is one of the first steps before getting to full EU membership. In other words, it’d be the first step of the SNP’s plan to rejoin the EU in full. Alba then wants a referendum at that point? Not before joining the EEA? If you’re trying to reach out to the 38%, to dabble with a version of independence outside of the EU, that’s probably a mistake. Definitely a mistake if you’re saying that full EU membership at this time isn’t appropriate.
I accept that the EU isn’t everyone’s picnic. But I can’t see the point in just joining EEA and pausing there indefinitely. For us, it’s just a halfway house to wait in while the wheels of reaccession spin.
Regarding the hard border, both parties are cowardly on the issue. Face it head-on and make the arguments for the hard border. Even with EEA, our border arrangement would need to be like the ones in the Irish sea between NI and England. Accept it, embrace it, find the arguments for it. We’re in a pandemic where the lack of control over that border keeps us physically mixed up in England’s covid disasters. That’s number one. What’s number two? England’s import standards are slipping, the quality of stuff coming through will deteriorate unless we do something about it.
The SNP have not given any indication as to their view of EFTA as far as I am aware and from chatting to leavers that I know they don’t have a problem with EFTA at all and actually prefer it. EU membership is not happening anytime soon and I don’t agree with you at all that to go into a referendum on anything less than a commitment to allow voters to decide wither to join the EU or not in a referendum would be the huge mistake. Most people have moved on from Brexit now and I don’t think will like to be told they will be dragged back into the EU against their will without a say as it will be a different EU by then, plus by the time any referendum comes around we will have been out the EU for a long time. I have no issue with a hard border, doesn’t stop people going on holiday, doesn’t stop virtually every other country in the world trading and getting on with life, for me it is a non issue and more down to ignorance and fear than anything else on the part of people in this country and those looking for any excuse to vote no again. It wasn’t just the fact that we are tied with England for Covid, did the Scottish Government even look to see if they could stop flights entering Scotland, to close the border with England and Northern Ireland, my money is on no they did not and they all bottled it. The whole UK handled the pandemic in the worst possible way and I hope Johnson and Sturgeon pay the price for all of the deaths I really do.
Thanks for commenting.
Oh, I’d accept EFTA. I just don’t see why I should settle for it – EFTA members are required to comply with Single Market rules, which are determined by the full EU members. I’m not sure what sort of sovereignty boon that EFTA members get for not having a say in the EU.
Did the Scottish Government ask for border control powers? Yes, they did. And they were refused or given much less than they asked for. By who? The UK Home Office and Priti Patel. Borders are a reserved issue as much as broadcasting is. We have that airport quarantine which can be bypassed by flying to an English airport and driving up. It’s no fucking good and I’m sick of pro-indy parties being terrified of even mentioning tightening that border.
Off Topic but I was wondering if you had seen this and what I think backs up your views. https://yoursforscotlandcom.wordpress.com/2021/07/11/determinants-of-independence-demographics/
I will have a read thanks.
> why leave one union for another union
Only the most blinkered could come up with a statement like that. Last time I checked the European Union was an agreement among equals – even the smallest country can veto legislation. The EU doesn’t take all the money generated by a country and hand back an allowance. And as our dear friends to the south found out, you can walk away from the EU at any time. So one is very much not like the other.
I like the idea of joining EFTA. Lets see where we stand before getting “married” again.
Not all decisions have a veto and it is shared sovereignty wither you like it or not (blinkered or not, I will with not), maybe not as bad as they crappy union we are stuck with right now but shared all the same. The EU is also far from perfect and many people know that also, EFTA is the way ahead. As far as money goes, contributions to the EU tend to be forced through by the big three and the last budget took nearly a year to agree with many smaller countries at the time saying they felt bullied into accepting it, nothing is perfect.
Thanks for commenting.
EFTA/EEA (as Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein) is also the policy of ISP.
It has the following advantages over the EU route to the single market.
1) accession to EFTA is massively simpler. The criteria are set out in the EFTA Agreement Article 56. Basically “the existing members agree to admit a new member”. No common currency, and hence no deficit criterion. No common access to common resources e.g. fishing. Just 4 members to negotiate with, not 27.
2) Because it’s simpler it’s potentially MUCH faster than joining the EU. Years faster.
3) EFTA members are outside the EU Customs Union. Which potentially means no customs border at Gretna. Which in turn negates the unionist scare stories about a hard border
4) EFTA membership is a good in itself with immediate access for Scottish companies to multiple trade agreements
5) EFTA membership is a stepping stone to single market membership via the EEA
6 EFTA EEA is the obvious political compromise between leavers and remainers. And that makes a Yes vote more likely
Completely agree and that for sharing that for all to see.
Thanks for commenting.
You say “EFTA members are outside the EU Customs Union. Which potentially means no customs border at Gretna. Which in turn negates the unionist scare stories about a hard border.”
That’s simply not correct. There is a customs border between Norway and Sweden and all the way round Switzerland. Private cars can just drive across into Norway from Sweden, but all commercial traffic have to go through customs procedures.
Thanks for up dating that for everyone, and myself.
Thanks for commenting.
1. “No common access to common resources e.g. fishing. Just 4 members to negotiate with, not 27.”
This is not the case. The EEA has specific carve-outs for ag and fish. If you want to sell your fish in the EU, like Norway does, then you need side agreements with the EU, like Norway has. It’s an ovservable fact that EEA isn’t enough for Norway. It won’t be enough for Scotland with specific reference to fish. The idea that the EU, and the principles of a shared resource, can be side-stepped is a fantasy.
“2) Because it’s simpler it’s potentially MUCH faster than joining the EU. Years faster.”
Much has been written by people like Kirsty Hughes, Fabian Zuleeg and Steve Bullock about the speedy provisional application of EU law. Joining the EU is not a binary event. The EEA subset of the Acquis will be applied at the rate at which Scotland complies with it, no matter if Scotland chooses to join EEA or EU. There is no fast path to anything.
“3) EFTA members are outside the EU Customs Union. Which potentially means no customs border at Gretna. Which in turn negates the unionist scare stories about a hard border”
EFTA comes with historic customs obligations but also the ability to forge customs arrangements independent of EFTA. It is not possible to eliminate customs infrastructure at Gretna for as long as Scotland’s trade policy is in any way different from rUK’s trade policy. EFTA membership guarantees divergence with rUK. Even if Scotland entered into a trade relationship wtih rUK, it would still have EFTA obligations on top that would bring tariff divergence. Inside the EU or inside EFTA/EEA, there’s going to be a customs border at Gretna Green. None of this matters, to be honest, because EEA transhipment regs, among a long list of regs, require border checks anyway.
“4) EFTA membership is a good in itself with immediate access for Scottish companies to multiple trade agreements”
I live in EFTA. It has zero impact on my life. Its collective FTAs are historic and are of limited value in 2021. Despite that, membership requires upholding them, as discussed above.
“5) EFTA membership is a stepping stone to single market membership via the EEA”
There is no value in joining EFTA unless there is a specific plan to join the EEA. The prize is surely EEA, right?
“6 EFTA EEA is the obvious political compromise between leavers and remainers. And that makes a Yes vote more likely”
Outside the EU, Scotland would need to develop an independent trade policy, an independent ag and fish policy, an independent digital policy etc etc. Until someone has a coherent plan for any of that, there’s not really much point in discussing EEA. I don’t see anyone with such a plan. Now, unionists aren’t stupid. They can see a hole when it appears and they’ll find a way of making it bigger and bigger. Not joining the EU just means you always have one more decision to make, one more thing to do yourself, one more agreement to strike on your own. It doesn’t mean fewer constraints or more sovereignty; far from it. (The sovereignty argument presented in the post is very much a David Frost kind of view and quite at odds with the more common interpretation of Westphalian sovereignty).
EEA kind of made sense when there was a belief that the UK would land somewhere near it. That never happened. Until someone fills the policy void that would result from Johnson’s Brexit and not joining the EU, there’s really not much point discussing EEA. Maybe that’s what Alba and ISP are planning to do – fill that policy void with reasoned arguments. Call me a stickler for facts but I read both the Alba and ISP manifestos and neither mentions of any of this.
If was in Alba or ISP, I would explore an EU cooperation agreement with across-the-board mutual recognition. Chuck in FoM, Erasmus, Horizon and you could probably get close to finding a good compromise that stands up to scrutiny.
Thank you for sharing such a detailed response for all to see. I am still more inclined to keep distance personally but I accept what you are saying but I guess it just comes down to personal choice but if the choice is UK or EU I would choose EU.
Thanks for commenting. Bruce
This is surely about what we want to achieve and setting a strategy to achieve that goal. It shouldn’t be about EEA vs EU but about the method that delivers the goals you prioritise.
What does EEA achieve? Well, it certainly doesn’t deliver the goals that you set out in the post. If you want to maximise “sovereignty” in the sense of “bringing back control” then it objectively does not do that. Enormous decisions are made in the EU that have direct bearing on the EEA. Non-EU participants in the EU internal market need to obey EU laws from the European Parliament. They are also required to implement EU directives in domestic law. All of this happens without representation and without any democratic input into their formulation (no commissioner, no MEPs, no minister at Council of Ministers, no head of government at European Council, no judge at CJEU). Is this what you really want? Given your priority and definition of sovereignty, EEA objectively does not meet your goals and does a much worse job at meeting them than EU membership.
I don’t share your goals but it still pains me to watch anyone pick a strategy that doesn’t achieve what they want. If you want to maximise “sovereignty”, “bring back control” and reduce border friction,then the EEA is definitely not the answer. To do all of that you’re looking at a cooperation agreement with the EU.
When I read the ISP and Alba manifestos, EEA felt like a policy picked out the air just to be different from SNP. Neither set out any arguments for it and neither tackled the policy hole that happens outside the EU and outside the UK. It’s become almost a talisman of the indy culture war.
I won’t pretend to have your knowledge or insight so thank you for the information and correcting my assumptions. I suppose no one really has total sovereignty in a globalised world but my preference would be for as much of it as we can get as/if we become independent and you are correct it is about how we achieve that but either way whatever happens as long as the voters decide via a referendum I will happily accept that result and move forward as best we can as a country.
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Modern thinking about sovereignty is that it is the freedom to make decisions about international agreements. Let’s just consider trade policy for the moment. If we join the EU, we adopt EU trade policy. If we join EEA, we need an independent trade policy. Both involve answering the same question but with different answers. The amount of sovereignty expressed in each case is identical. Neither is more sovereign than the other. Sovereignty is making a choice but independent of the choice made.
A better argument to join EEA, for example, could be a dissatisfaction with EU trade policy and an argument that we could develop an independent trade policy that would better serve our needs. This is the kind of argument made by David Davis when he started banging on about beacons of global trade back in 2016. I think we know how that turned out. The problem we face is that Scotland will face the same kinds of struggles as the UK in trying to break free of EU trade policy. Would we attempt to formally participate in rUK’s trade policy to preserve our current post-Brexit trading arrangements? I cannot believe anyone here wants that. It doesn’t work anyway because EFTA membership would impose a customs border at Gretna. Would we attempt to rollover the UK’s arrangements (themselves rolled over from the EU) for ourselves? This suffers from rules-of-origin disadvantages that will further exacerbate the supply chain disruptions caused by Brexit. Every time we repeat this exercise with any EU policy that we’d exit by joining EEA, we end up repeating the troubles with Brexit that everyone warned about and are now happening.
The EFTA/EEA members deal with SM issues via the EFTA Court, not the ECJ.
The ECJ rulings are (I believe) persuasive on the EFTA Court, and if the EFTA Court moves first, the ECJ often adopts is decisions.
EFTA/EEA members have a member on the EFTA Court.
There is a form of feedback from EEA members on proposed legislation which would affect them, I seem to recall that Norway has used that a number of times to push back and get changes. I also have a vague recall of something being passed (possibly oil or energy related) which was claimed to have “EEA relevance”, then Norway indicated that it did not recognise such relevance, and it never got pushed against them.
So the relationship with respect to the EEA Acquis is not a one way street of “fax democracy”.
So while I don’t necessarily agree with your position (which seems to be ‘EEA pointless/bad’), I do agree with the general argument that one should have aims and decide what is needed to achieve those aims.
I have always said. Why leave one UNION to join another, I would have thought after our experience of being in a UNION, would have opened our eyes. I did vote for remain in the Brexit referendum, but that was ONLY because the message the SNP were giving out was “Scotland will NOT be dragged out of the EU against our will” hmmmmmm… so MY thinking was, then Scotland needs to vote remain, if we are to get another chance of leaving the U.K..
I have always believed that WHEN Scotland voted YES, (I also do not believe we will ever win a referendum) So my preference would be to #DissolvedTheUnion or end the TREATY.. JUST DO IT. No more asking for stupid referendums that can be fixed..
Like I said, I never would vote to JOIN the EU, my preference there too is EFTA/EEA If it is good enough for the small Nordic countries it should be good enough for Scotland..So I 100% think Kenny was right. Just as I 100% believe ALBA +ISP are the parties that WILL take this country to our INDEPENDENCE.. Sturgeon knows this, the media knows this, so ALBA is going to be got at always. But if there are SNP voters out there who believe more in INDEPENDENCE than they do in Sturgeon. Then we need them to come on board, if we are to shake things up, & we should be starting next year with the local elections. We must make a break through, take at least one council if not more, & show the people of that council how the country could be run better with ALBA as the party of governance. IF Sturgeon still refuses to work with ALBA. Then Surely the real SNPers still in the party, MSP’s, MP’s, those running the branches and the members & voters themselves will have their eyes opened at last that the SNP is NOT the party Scotland needs to get us INDEPENDENCE it is the Party standing in our way of INDEPENDENCE..
Like you I would not vote to join the EU in an independent Scotland as the EU stands right now and EFTA all the way for me if we are able to join. I do hope that if we can get onto the policy discussions around independence then we can get SNP members to start to think about the issues, ask the hard questions of their party and make informed choices, that is what I am trying to do here and I do think it is something worth doing now. I will hold the Scottish Government and Sturgeon to account on policy but I am long past caring about her as First Minister or as a person in so many ways. We need to move, focussing on her is just what she wants, it is time she started answering questions about independence and Governments crap record in far too many areas.
Thanks for commenting.
I would make the following observation.
Support in Norway for joining the EU has fallen from 48% in the second failed referendum, to under 20%. EFTA EEA works for them
The same is true for Iceland, although less pronounced.
It is also not correct to say that the EFTA EEA members have no say in EEA affairs. They have substantial input via the decision shaping mechanism. Arguably more say than smaller EU member States. Anyone who has experience of public policy knows that all the actual decisions are made long before the final political rubber stamp
I do agree that we should decide where we want to get to first. For me that is EEA membership, as that delivers the four freedoms. EFTA is the fastest way to do that
It also gives the third of SNP voters who voted Leave a reason to vote for independence, while recovering the practical benefits of Europe via the EEA
Should an independent Scotland be able to retain rail services in public ownership?
If Scotland was in the EEA then that’s not a choice it would have…
‘Norway: Rail workers hold national strikes over EU rail privatisation’:
EEA members are required to implement three-quarters of all EU laws without having any democratic say in making them…
‘The Storting and the EEA Agreement’ [July 2019]:
Click to access the_storting_and_the_eea_agreement_factsheet_aug2019.pdf
‘We pay, but have no say: that’s the reality of Norway’s relationship with the EU’:
There would be swings and round about not matter what Scotland does in relation to the EU and what the relationship was, it all comes down to what people would be happy to accept. I don’t have a problem with being a member of the EEA as part of that trade off but I also voted leave for many reasons and would have no issue wit that either if that is what the majority wanted. I want Scotland to be as independent as it can be in todays world, it is about self determination for myself and always has been.
Thanks for commenting.