Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Who wants in and who wants out.

Where would Wales stand if the Westminster government were to no longer be part of European Union?  This was a question that this blog raised in October (25 October 2011). The question becomes more relevant now that Mr Cameron has isolated himself from the other countries of the EU.
Indeed it has caused some concern to Carwyn Jones who fears “that the UK Government’s new position in relation to the European Union threatens Wales’ national interest.”
Not an unreasonable point of view when one considers that half of all Welsh exports go to Europe and Wales’s agricultural industry is so reliant on the Common Agricutural policy and of course the Welsh Governments economic policy is so heavily dependent on funds from Europe.
 But what is interesting In Carwyn Jones’s letter to David Cameron is that he raises the question, would Wales be better served if it was to plough its own furrow as an independent country. Well, he didn’t quite put it like that, but that was certainly his direction of travel.  
He said, “For  the first time, I am now seriously concerned about whether the interests of Wales can be advanced effectively in Europe by the UK Government.  For those of us who are  committed to the United Kingdom, and the place of the UK within the European Union, this is a deeply concerning position to be in."
Indeed Cameron had taken unilateral decisions with huge implications for both Wales and Scotland. Many are claiming it as gifting Alex Salmond an open goal on the independence issue. 
Salmond being Salmond was quick to see Cameron’s weekend exploits working to his political advantage and was like a greyhound out of the trap ready to exploit the situation.
In a letter to Cameron, Salmond accusied him of damaging Scotland’s interests in Europe and “blundering” into the controversial move to veto European Union treaty changes. Scotland was  “left out of the room” and the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had not been consulted on a matter that greatly affected them.
The situation was not lost on Paddy Ashdown, now Lord Ashdown, who claimed Mr Cameron had strengthened “the hand of Mr Salmond to create an argument for Scotland to leave Britain” and become a separate member state.
Wales and Scotland even if they went their seperate ways from England would automatically retain EU membership as they were already part of Europe through the UK. This of course would change if the UK left before and if, Wales or Scotland gained their independence.
It would be ironical indeed that the arch Unionist David Cameron had made Welsh independence look more attractive than ever anything Gwynfor Evans and Plaid Cymru had done.  
And all because the PM said “no.”


  1. Roll on independence. We can't do any worse, and probably much better, as a nation state in our own right.

    Thank god for Alex Salmond - the FM for Wales.

  2. 'Wales and Scotland even if they went their seperate ways from England would automatically retain EU membership as they were already part of Europe through the UK.'

    My understanding is quite the reverse. The UK is a member of the EU, granted. But a separate Wales or Scotland would not merit any such membership, nor indeed would a diminished England.

    This is not to say that Wales could not apply for membership. Of course it could. But it would have meet membership criteria like any other country.

  3. I think that has been settled, We would all be successor states and we would be members of the EU.

  4. The Scotlsman carried the quote - On the constitutional question, Aidan O’Neill, one of Scotland’s leading QCs, said an independent Scotland would automatically “retain” EU membership, as it was already a de-facto part of Europe through the UK.

    He said: “All Scots would retain EU citizenship if Scotland became independent.”

  5. The answer to the question of will an independent Scotland remain a member of the EU is as a House Commmons paper of November 8th pointed out is that no one really knows. There is no precedent for the break up of an existing EU state. All the exisiting states have to agree to the membership of a new state. In those circumstances it would be interesting to see the reaction of both Spain and France. Instead of writing letters in reaction to last week's events predicting the end of the world as we know it most sensible politicians would probably have waited to see how it all pans out. Kaletsky in today's Times, for example, argues for a number of reasons that last week's so called treaty isn't worth a fig. How many European nations will in the end sign up to a German driven economic agenda which increases the chances of Europe descending into a depression? The French Socialists have already indicated that they are want to renegotiate. I'm sure in May French voters will be told by both Francoise Hollande and Marine Le Pen that Sarkozy by agreeing to last week's treaty is in the pocket of Merkel. At the end of the day most European nations do not want a Europe dominated by Germany and to avoid that they need the UK. This is a political story that has a long way to go yet. The real question from last week events from a Welsh perspective is what is the purpose of writing another poorly constructed letter to the UK government which will end up in the bin and decreases your chances of being listened to on the issues that really matter?

  6. I largely agree with the comments of Jeff Jones, above.

    There is certainly no question of any newly formed UK independent state automatically retaining EU membership, be it Scotland or England. It just doesn't work like that.

    But, given that both countries would be 'net contributors' swift membership is likely to be granted.

    As for Wales, a major debtor nation, membership is only likely to be granted if England and Scotland guarantee to maintain their existing largesse.

    I cannot see this being politically acceptable to the populations of either Scotland or England.

  7. It is odd to see how fast things change - Cameron's little Englander stance is beginning to look like an own goal - not only did he not protect his 'country' (the Ciityboys he went to school with) against further regulation, but it is becoming clear that whilst turning his back on a lot of influence with his petulant tantrum, he actually gained exactly NOTHING. And, to boot, has played into the hands of the secessionists like Salmond!

    It would (/will) be ironic to see the arch 'every fibre of my being' unionists becoming the actual catalyst that breaks up the UK.

  8. Just a thought, Gareth,

    You say the Welsh Govt's economic policy is dependent on EU funds. But the UK is a net contributor to the EU. It paid around £6.3bn more in 2010/11 than came back in farm subsidies, regional aid, research funds and the rest. That suggests there would be more cash for Wales and Scotland if the UK withdrew from the EU, not less. Although the rows over how that money might be spent would probably fill the Western Mail for a few years. Especially if it's publishing monthly by then.

  9. Experience of central government's track record of distributing funds to Wales does not fill me with optimism that it would come Wales's way. At least with European funds the formula and criteria is open and you either qualify or not.