Spain and the Scotland Question

The article below appeared in the Gibraltar daily newspaper Panorama on Friday 5 October.


By David Eade

After Ed Miliband’s master class in speech making on Tuesday afternoon I went to the international lounge at the Labour Party Conference. One of the delights of such events is that apart from the old war horses like Jack Straw, John Prescott, John Reid (the latter two now Lords) you also see the present day big hitters and can look out for the talents of the future.

I got to talking to one young politician by the name of Hadleigh Roberts. He is a linguist and his skills saw him working in the Parti Socialiste offices in southern France, Nice I think. He was also a staffer on Axelle Lemaire’s campaign to be elected as the PS MP for the French overseas constituency, which stretches from the UK to the North Pole. Elected she was and Hadleigh had been entrusted with the task of translating Hollande’s manifesto in to English.

He is committed to Europe and spoke at conference on this theme: he wants to see the Labour Party fully engage in a positive way in the EC. He is also knowledgeable about Spanish politics and we spoke of the very real possibility that Cataluña could break away or Spain will become a federation of autonomous regions on perhaps the German model.

It was at this point he asked me two questions that he had been putting to people he met. There is a possibility that after the referendum Scotland could leave the United Kingdom. If that is the case then treaties that are binding to the UK would not be valid for Scotland. This would mean if Scotland wished to be a member of the European Community it would have to apply for membership in its own right.

The first question was: would the UK government object to Scotland joining the EC? My response was it would obviously depend on what fallout existed from Scotland’s withdrawal from the union but my guess would be London wouldn’t.

The second question was this: would Spain block Scotland’s membership? Well I never saw that one coming but Hadleigh explained Spain might black ball Scotland’s application because it would not want the Scots to set a precedent for the Catalans or indeed the Basques making a similar application.

I have to say my answer was I did not believe Spain would interfere in a political matter that revolved around the remainder of the UK and a newly independent Scotland.

It was only hours later I was having second thoughts. I checked through my press releases and read the one from our government expressing its pleasure that UEFA had provisionally endorsed Gibraltar’s membership which will go through to a final vote in London next May. Needless to say Spain has vowed to fight this all the way.

In the past I had viewed Spain’s opposition to be on the grounds that it did not want Gibraltar granted anything that suggested it had “nation” status. Hence a Gibraltar national team playing matches against other UEFA national sides or being allowed to compete in the Euro Cup would be opposed by Madrid on political grounds.

I then read in another commentary arguing this was no longer Spain’s major fear. The Catalans and the Basques already have unofficial “national” selections. If Gibraltar was allowed UEFA status then Cataluña and the Basque region (as well as the Galicians) might decide to demand it too and make formal applications to the ruling European soccer body. It is that fear that keeps Rajoy and his Partido Popular henchmen and women awake at night.

On that basis if Spain is willing to go against Sports’ court of arbitration and oppose Gibraltar’s membership of UEFA because it fears the knock on effect for the Catalans and Basques who is to say Madrid would not also oppose Scotland’s membership of the EC. If Spain can challenge British Gibraltar on the first issue then it may well engage in UK –Scottish politics and block Scotland’s application to the EC simply because of Madrid’s fear of the Catalans and Basques.

One Comment

  1. Yes. I think this is a logical expectation. Spain is going through such a dismaying, disheartening,time. Hard for people to believe in any politics, but independence movements are more meaningful than anything else.
    It's refreshing to hear/see someone making the links between French, Spanish and British politics.
    Thank you.
    Toni Glazzard

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