How do countries join the EU? I’ve noticed a lot of confusion about this. In particular, there seems to be an assumption that you either remain within the EU and somehow alter the treaties, or that you leave and copy the accession route followed by other countries in the past (a process that can go on for many years).
Joining is all about closing chapters of the so-called acquis, which basically means that you need to show that you’ve implemented EU legislation in all the various areas. If you’re already an EU member, almost all the chapters can be closed immediately, because full convergence has already happened. All that remains is to negotiate things such as voting rights and fisheries quotas, and that shouldn’t take very long.
Leaving the EU together with the rUK would mean diverging from EU legislation, which would mean that Scotland would then spend years realigning itself with the acquis afterwards. It makes no sense, because it would involve years when it was aligned with neither the rUK nor the EU.
I still think my old timeline still seems reasonable, although it potentially conflicts with Nicola’s new position of not holding a referendum until it’s clear what Brexit means:
|30 August 2018
|Second independence referendum
|28 February 2019
|Scottish independence day
|4 March 2019
|Scotland sends a membership application to the EU and asks to remain within the Internal Market and the Customs Union in the interim.
|4 March 2019
|Scotland sends a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations expressing the intent to remain a party to all treaties signed and ratified by the United Kingdom.
|14 March 2019
|The European Commission and the European Council agree that Scotland can remain within the Internal Market and the Customs Union without voting rights while the membership application is processed.
|31 March 2019
|Brexit takes place – the rUK leaves the EU. Scotland is not yet a member state but remains within the Internal Market and the Customs Union.
|26 September 2019
|Formal EU membership negotiations begin.
|28 February 2021
|The new Scottish currency is launched, linked to a basket of Euro and Pound Sterling.
|9 May 2021 (Europe Day)
|A majority of MEPs, all EU member states and Scotland ratify the treaty of ascension and the country joins the EU. 13 Scots get elected to the European Parliament (not 6 as before independence, but the same as Denmark).
|28 February 2024
|The rUK leaves Faslane, taking their nuclear weapons with them.
|28 February 2034
|The last of many independence treaties between Scotland and the rUK is signed (this one finalising the maritime border).
This timeline is assuming the UK will leave the Internal Market and the Customs Union immediately. If Westminster and Brussels agree on a transitional period, it would give Scotland more time. On the other hand, if the UK government walks out and slams the door (something that the Tories might be planning to do, as I wrote yesterday), there could be even less time available.
It’s important that Scotland is ready for all eventualities. It’s finally starting to dawn on most people that Brexit will be an enormous disaster, so this is a good time to talk up independence as a solution.