Monday 26 March 2012

On Schengen

Now Theresa May isn't someone that Union Jock usually takes too seriously. But yesterday, she might have had a point when she raised the spectre of a closed Scotland-England border. The Schengen Agreement is now part of the EU acquis, and hence can be considered a prior condition of entry for new applicant states, as is joining the ERM II as a precursor to entering the Eurozone (but that's a matter for another post). Of course, the SNP's presumption is that a separate Scotland would be treated as one of two successor states to the current UK, but, frankly, these are uncharted waters and no-one can say what settlement would be reached with the EU, until and unless Wee Eck and his friends actually attempt to negotiate them.

So what if the EU did demand Schengen membership of the new state? In that case, a UK government that took immigration and border control seriously would be compelled to close the border and install checkpoints, otherwise its opt-out from Schengen would have been in vain. This would obviously throw a seriously big spanner in the works of independence.

The SNP's retort to this is typically facile. According to Pete Wishart, "The reality is that an independent Scotland will be part of the common travel area which already exists within and between the UK and Ireland". Well, actually, the reality is that the Common Travel Area Arrangement is a bilateral agreement that exists between the Republic of Ireland and the UK. I very much doubt it mentions Scotland at all. What would happen in the event of Scottish separation, both in relation to the UK and the EU, is pure conjecture, not reality.  Ireland's opt-out from Schengen was specifically granted in order to preserve the Common Travel Area, and is conditional on it remaining in place - would the EU let it happen again?

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