Saturday 6 October 2012

A choice between two unions

What we are seeing in the Eurozone at the moment is countries beginning to pool their sovereignty. This is especially the case with regard to those countries, which have sought bailouts, such as Greece, Portugal and Ireland. Their fiscal policy is being dictated by their creditors, the various funds used to bail them out, the bond markets and international bodies such as the European Central Bank and the IMF. But even the wealthier countries are being constrained. They are forced by the logic of monetary union into agreeing to the bailouts and into wiping out bad debts. They may have to have to agree to a fiscal policy, which might not suit their present needs, but rather the needs of the debtor countries. In time, if monetary union continues, they will have to agree to massive monetary transfers from the north to the south. This all has a profound effect on politics. If the Greeks choose to elect socialists, they may end up with a government called socialist, but that government can’t implement its socialist policies, for the policies of the Greek state are largely dictated by its membership of the Eurozone. The Germans too are finding that their government’s actions are likewise limited.

No one knows what will happen to the Eurozone, but the intention is ever closer union, more and more political union, fiscal union and transfer union. This may all turn out to be impossible, alternatively, the Eurozone members may decide that it is undesirable. It may all break-up. There was a time when I considered the break-up inevitable, but I’m beginning to change my mind. So much has been invested in the Eurozone succeeding, that I’m starting to think these countries are really serious about sticking together. Anyway, let’s, for the sake of argument assume that the Eurozone continues, that it turns out in the end to be a success. Under this circumstance, it is clear that the EU will become a United States of Europe (USE) and sovereignty will be pooled in the same way that Vermont’s sovereignty is pooled with California’s to form the USA. Moreover, If the Eurozone succeeds, eventually the EU and the Eurozone will be one and the same thing. Countries, which at present are in the EU, but not the Eurozone, will either join or leave entirely. It will be in neither party’s long-term interest to allow semi-detached membership.

If the Eurozone becomes a successful political, fiscal and transfer union, a United States of Europe, an independent Scotland and rUK would face a choice as to whether they wished to be in or out. Let’s imagine a case where an independent Scotland and rUK were both in the United States of Europe/Eurozone. Both would have pooled their sovereignty. The situation then would become rather like New York and New Jersey. The one may consider itself independent from the other, but it hardly matters. After all, in 1861 West Virginia seceded from Virginia, but this division now obtains in name only. West Virginia is not in any real sense independent in relation to Virginia as both are part of the union which makes up the USA. Thus if both Scotland and rUK became members of the USE, Scotland’s decision to seek independence would in effect be nullified.

A more likely result of Eurozone success and the establishment of a United States of Europe however, is that rUK would vote to leave the EU. Where would this leave an independent Scotland? SNP policy has long advocated a close relationship with Europe, favoured the Euro when it seemed a success some years ago. It is likely then that an independent Scotland would choose to be a part of the United States of Europe. This would leave Scotland part of an ever closer union, the EU, ruled from Brussels. The Scottish parliament would, if it was lucky, have about as much power as that of West Virginia. Scotland would have pooled its newly won sovereignty and would now be just as much part of a fiscal union, a political union and a transfer union as it was when it was part of the UK.

What would be the consequences of Scotland being in the Eurozone with its neighbour rUK being outside? One consequence would be that rUK would have far more sovereignty and independence than Scotland. For rUK would have taken back the sovereignty, which it had once lent to the EU, the parliament in Westminster would be able to choose policies without being constrained by EU directive or Strasbourg law courts. Furthermore, a different currency would exist across the border between England and Scotland and we would have the disadvantage of having  to change money in order to do business with our greatest trading partner. There would certainly be a Schengen border between England and Scotland, as if rUK were outside the EU, the sort of opt out which Ireland obtained would no longer be possible. There would be no right to live and work in rUK for Scots, as the right to these things would depend on an EU membership which, rUK would no longer have. Of course, rUK could grant those rights if they chose, but they would not have to do so.

The choice for Scotland at the next referendum is really a choice between two unions. The union of the UK or the union of the EU.