I had intended giving readers of this blog a rest from ear-bashing over this season of good will. That has been scuppered (again) by articulate, pertinent points made by Derek Bateman in his incisive questioning of the loyalties of some of our MEPs, as they seem far keener on toeing the party line than reflecting the interests of their electorate—let alone the truth.
Open Letter to David Martin MEP and Catherine Stihler MEP (both Lab)
Dear David and Catherine:
Season’s greetings to you both and to your families. I do miss my trips to Europe paid for by the taxpayer. They may come round again for me when I’m appointed Scotland’s Ambassador to the EU in a couple of year’s time. (I have been told I’m ahead of both Alyn and Ian in the queue so it may be worth keeping in with me).
I see you have both been busy over the holiday period in keeping with your reputation as among the hardest working MEPs. In particular, your ringing public endorsement of Jose Manuel Barroso’s assertions about the position of our nation after a Yes vote have been striking and in tone at least leave you open to the charge of relishing the idea of your country being excluded from membership in its own right, an oddly masochistic reaction I put down to confusing two different things – your desire to remain part of the British state by winning the referendum on the one hand and your constituents’ national interests on the other. As we are about to vote this year on our independence and, since continued EU membership is very much the desired outcome for many of us, can you address a few questions for clarity. In this, I’m following the well-worn precedent of European Unionists in demanding answers of the Scottish government before we vote, not to mention the greater precedent of access to truthful information for all citizens in advance of a democratic vote. Here are my questions.
Can you point to the section in the treaties which can be applied to Scotland voting for independence and then subsequently, against its wishes, being expelled? If you are seeking legal clarity on Scotland’s position, will you formally ask the British government to request it from the Commission who have promised to clarify officially but only to the Member State (UK)?
Do you agree with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that a “precise scenario” for clarification only applies after the referendum vote? (Letter to me from FCO 13/12/13. The ‘precise scenario’ referred to by the Commission can only be presented following negotiations on the terms of Scottish independence from the UK, which can themselves only follow a ‘yes’ vote in next year’s referendum as there is currently no democratic mandate for undertaking such negotiations.
Will you vote for Scotland’s membership of the EU irrespective of how it eventually comes about?
I appreciate it is in your political interest to have your constituents frightened into believing they will become stateless people – the Palestinians of Europe – stripped of their existing rights against their wishes after exercising their democratic right of freedom of expression but surely we are entering uncharted territory now in which the destiny of the Scots is at stake, not just another five years in or out of office. Therefore the ritual dance of claim and counter claim from our politicians – on all sides – should stop.
So, again, where in the treaties governing the European Union does it allow for existing EU citizens to have their country removed from membership, their citizenship revoked, their right to free movement withheld, their financial contribution retained, their subsidies stopped (retrospectively?), their visiting students repatriated before qualifying, their border re-introduced and closed to the single market, hundreds of EU-funded developments halted, and you as MEPs ejected from your elected position?
It seems that Barroso and Van Rompuy – and yourselves – are relying on Article 49 of the TEU which relates to new member states. Scotland won’t be a new state until the negotiations are completed and she will then be endorsed by London so are you saying Brussels will have no involvement of any kind in 18 months minimum of talks between London and Edinburgh and will immediately turn its back on the deal although it’s ratified by the rUK as a Member State?
Even if we adopt that viewpoint, although Article 49 manifestly envisages third countries applying to accede rather than existing ones splitting, my question is: How does Scotland get there? By what process based on which section of the treaties does Scotland cease to be a member? Who decides? Who votes? Is it your argument that the Commission members simply assert that Scotland is outside from a given date and do you as democrats – and as Scots – accept that without challenge? If so, what happened to your commitment to the rule of law and rights of the citizen and all those demands over the years for the institutions to be made more democratic and subject to the parliament? Or do we end up in the Court of Justice possibly under an Action for Annulment, thus:
If any EU country, the Council, the Commission or (under certain conditions) Parliament believes that a particular EU law is illegal, it may ask the Court to annul it. ‘Actions for annulment’ can also be used by private individuals who want the Court to cancel a particular law because it directly and adversely affects them as individuals. If the Court finds the law in question was not correctly adopted or is not correctly based on the Treaties, it may declare the law null and void.
I assure you, I will be the first individual raising such an action, should it ever be needed.
And, if it comes to this apparently unlawful exclusion, will you support it, even if the Scots, whom you both represent, have expressed their desire for independence and will you declare that your obligation is then to fall in behind the people who elect you and take up the fight for Scotland’s right to retain membership?
I would have thought that was self-evident but, David, I remember your enthusiasm for Scotland’s exclusion is quite boundless and you wanted to enshrine it in decisions of the parliament by producing an official report…. “Martin planned to write a report arguing that any new state would be automatically outside the European Union and would be forced to reapply for membership…”
Why are you so keen to ensure your own country is made a pariah? The trouble I have with this is that it doesn’t sound like a patriotic Scot bringing to bear his vast experience by using the treaties and historic precedent to warn of the implications of a vote. Rather it has all the marks of a zealot hungry to find any means, lawful or otherwise, of creating difficulty for his own people…not to mention the democratic rights of our fellow European citizens in Catalonia. When did your fealty to the British state overtake your socialist instincts for peoples’ rights, subsidiarity and internationalism?
How is it that you can champion over many years the rights of Palestinians to their own homeland run by themselves even when it brings you into direct opposition with the Israelis, yet you campaign from other side when your own people aspire to the ultimate expression of nationhood – independence? In principle, I don’t think the two are so very different and at the very least, Scots and Palestinians are entitled to hear the truth about their position from those who represent them rather than find those same representatives are in effect running a campaign against them. (How else do explain your position of insisting – and working to demonstrate – that Scotland will be outside the EU? And why have the Labour MEPs done nothing to seek an alternative view, a more creative approach which is already being preached by voices in other member states and briefed by the EU’s own lawyers?)
I notice too that in working to get the institutions to oppose Scotland’s membership, it is your custom to refer to the nation of Scotland as a “region of the EU”. I suppose that is the reality of our place in the UK but I know of no Scot, Unionist or Nationalist, who talks on an international stage of his or her country as a region. Does this provide us with a clear insight into your own personal view of the Scottish nation as less than other countries and unworthy of statehood?
I fear the politicking in this debate is obscuring the reality which is the inclusive impulse of the EU since inception, a principle I know you subscribe to which makes your insistence that the Scots must be denied an odd one.
The risks for those of you promulgating this stance is two-fold. One, the anger at the embarrassment this obstructionism to Scotland – and Catalonia – is causing to the reputation of the EU as a democratic alliance spills over and other countries openly challenge the institutional orthodoxy or, even more likely, an insider leaks the outline legal viewpoint which contradicts it. Second, the Yes campaign wins and the truth is revealed in real time as negotiations begin. In neither case do the Barroso adherents win, or deserve, anything but the contempt of the international community and, more pertinently, the scorn of the Scots. Not much of a legacy, is it?
Happy New Year