Pages tagged with "EU"

How Brexit robbed Scotland of crucial funding

Since the Brexit transition period came to an end, we have outlined some of the various adverse implications and negative effects on trade, business and research, for example. However, another benefit of EU membership that came to an end for the UK in December 2020 was the country’s access to the EU Structural Funds.

Structural Funds are pots of funding that intend to support economic development and diminish the inequalities between various areas of Europe. The UK benefitted hugely from this funding. Indeed, across the 2014-20 funding period, the European Structural and Investment (ESI) funds provided €17.2 billion to the UK. Meanwhile, during the same period, the UK received a further €22.5 billion through the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund.

The ESI in particular is used to reduce inequalities between the various regions of Europe, funding less developed areas to a greater extent and helping such regions to catch up. The majority of this funding comes from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF), which allocated €5.8 billion and €4.9 billion respectively between 2014 and 2020.

ERDF and ESF funding by nation and region of the UK (2014-2020)

Euro to GBP pound exchange rate as of 21st April 2021

 

Region/Nation Total Funding (£ millions) Per person, per year (£)
UK 9,474 20.8
Scotland 813 21.6
Wales 2,083 96.1
Northern Ireland 443 34.2
East Midlands 517 15.8
East of England 334 7.9
London 658 10.9
North East 638 34.7
North West 978 19.4
South East 247 4.0
South West 1291 33.7
West Midlands

 

785 19.5
Yorkshire and the Humber 686 18.1

The loss of these funds is quite clearly going to have a detrimental effect on many already disadvantaged areas, as well as the more privileged regions. An attempt to cover these losses has been made in the form of the Stronger Towns Fund, launched in 2019. However, this fund has been described as a “Brexit bribe” and one that fails to even come close to covering this shortfall.

It is clear that Scotland will face huge losses as a result of Brexit

So, we want to offer a comparison to see exactly how much Brexit is costing these regions of the UK, in relation to this funding. Firstly, however, it must be noted that money from the Stronger Towns Fund has not been directly allocated to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Instead, it has been proposed that £600m will be made available for these regions to bid upon over a seven-year period. Considering Scotland alone received €941 million (approximately £811 million) across a six-year period from the ERDF and ESF funding, it is clear that Scotland will face huge losses as a result of Brexit.

Stronger Towns Fund (2019-2026)

Region Total funding (£ millions) Per person, per year (£)
East Midlands 110 2.8
East of England 25 0.5
North East 105 4.9
North West 281 4.8
South East 37 0.5
South West 33 0.7
West Midlands

 

212 4.5
Yorkshire and the Humber 197 4.7

In comparing these tables, it can be seen that across all regions of England the funding per head of population per year is significantly less than when the UK was an EU member state and received EU funding. This demonstrates another key shortfall that has resulted from the UK leaving the EU.

UK Shared Prosperity Fun

 It must also be noted that the UK government has announced that it will replace the EU Structural Funds with the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, launching in 2022. The government has suggested that the fund will reach around £1.5 billion a year, roughly matching the combined total of the ERDF and ESF funds. However there is a question mark over whether this sum will be reached initially. Indeed, the pilot scheme that has been set up to trial this fund is investing just £220 million in its first year. This is a dramatic difference compared to the sum the UK would have received had it still been an EU member.

 Conclusions

It is clear that leaving the EU has had severe consequences for Scotland and the UK as a whole. The Stronger Towns Fund was an inadequate attempt to compensate for the huge losses in funding that have resulted from the UK leaving the EU and therefore no longer qualifying for the ERDF and ESF funds.

In particular, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were not specifically allocated money from the Stronger Towns Fund, leaving £600 million to be bid upon over a seven-year period - a drastically different scenario from being an EU member. It is clear that an independent Scotland, as a member of the EU, would prosper and benefit from such EU funding.

Thousands rush to sign plea to EU to confirm indy Scotland can rejoin

Thousands of people have flocked to add their names to a letter urging the European Parliament to guarantee that an independent Scotland could rejoin the EU.

The organisation Europe for Scotland published the letter just days ago. It had already been signed by 170 prominent culture figures in the UK and beyond.

Since its publication almost 8000 people have signed up to its demand. Most have come from Scotland but people from all over Europe have also signed.

Europe for Scotland co-coordinators Andrea Pisauro and Nina Jetter said they were delighted with the response so far. They said many of the Scottish signatories had attached messages saying how deprived and betrayed they felt by the UK government’s decision to pull Scotland out of Europe against its will.

‘There was a real feeling of sadness from many of those in Scotland who signed the letter,’ said Ms Jetter.

Some people we approached wanted to see the election result before committing to sign

She and Mr Pisauro had organised the project after being asked to get involved by their friend Anthony Barnett of openDemocracy. Cultural figures who signed it included actors Sam Heughan, star of Outlander, Brian Cox, whose long list of acting credits include Succession, former Scottish makar Jackie Kay, author Val McDermid and U2 and Talking Heads producer Brian Eno.

The organisers expect more cultural figures to sign up if a pro-independence majority is elected at  Thursday’s Holyrood election. ‘Some people we approached wanted to see the election result before committing to sign,’ said Mr Pisauro.

We want to build a bottom up citizens campaign demanding that EU institutions break the silence

The letter was published simultaneously in Scotland, elsewhere in the UK, Denmark, France, Italy, Portugal, Czech Republic and Poland.

The next step after the Scottish election will be to widen the campaign to involve more people living in Central Europe. Ms Jetter said: ‘ We want to build a bottom up citizens campaign demanding that EU institutions break the silence, express their solidarity and offer support to Scotland ahead of an independence referendum.’

Mr Pisauro added that many people living in Europe were not aware that Scotland had voted against Brexit and the campaign wants to raise awareness of that.

He added: 'We have an extensive network of contacts thanks to campaigns we got involved with in the past, including an open letter to Angela Merkel demanding European solidarity in response to the pandemic.'

You can sign the letter urging the EU to pledge to allow an independent Scotland to rejoin at europeforscotland.com, where it has been translated into 18 languages, including Scots and Gaelic. Sign the letter here.

Is the UK really leading the way on COVID-19 vaccinations?

Both the UK Government and the media headlines have suggested that the UK is leading the way on the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out. We recognised in a previous article, that the UK paid significantly more for vaccinations, causing delays within many EU countries as the manufacturers directed supplies towards the overpaying nation. Despite this, in terms of fully vaccinating the population, the UK is still trailing behind a large number of countries worldwide, including many of those in the EU. Let's examine the vaccination programmes in larger EU countries, with a similar population size to the UK, then compare smaller, independent countries to determine whether an independent Scotland would have been likely to have vaccinated its population more efficiently than it has as part of the UK.

Vaccination programmes in larger countries

As of the 9th February 2021, the UK had fully vaccinated 0.77% of the population. Meanwhile, Germany had vaccinated 1.32%, Spain 1.9% and Italy 2.05% of the population. The only European country with a similar population that is marginally falling behind the UK is France, with 0.54% of its population fully vaccinated. This suggests that, despite the headlines, the UK is trailing behind most of the most comparable nations in reaching full immunity from the virus. Despite these countries all being part of the EU and its vaccination programme, that was hindered by the UK capitalising upon the vaccine, they remain significantly ahead of the UK in terms of fully vaccinating their populations.

A comparison with small independent countries

The table below demonstrates the % of the population that have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in small independent countries, as well as the UK. The results highlight that all of these small independent countries have managed to fully vaccinate a greater percentage of their populations than the UK. Even a very small country, such as Estonia, has fully vaccinated nearly double the number of individuals that the UK has. Furthermore, the figures suggest that the UK’s progress is very slow and gradual, with the percentage of the population being fully vaccinated rising very slowly.

Share of the population fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (%)

3rd Feb

4th Feb

5th Feb

6th Feb

7th Feb

8th Feb

9th Feb

Denmark

1.83

2.02

2.25

2.37

2.43

2.55

2.63

Norway

0.59

0.74

0.83

0.84

0.85

0.87

0.92

Ireland

-

-

1.16

-

1.76

-

-

Finland

0.42

0.62

0.77

0.88

0.90

0.90

0.97

UK

0.74

0.75

0.75

0.75

0.76

0.76

0.77

Conclusions

Despite headlines such as “Vaccine success to give UK huge economic boost! PM: 'Jabs get us closer to beating virus'” from the Express, it is clear that the UK still has a long way to go in terms of reaching immunity and fully vaccinating the population. the only thing the UK Government has been winning at recently seems to be false propaganda about it's vaccination programme.  Its shouldn't be a race, nations should be working tother to beat this health crises but the UK Government has been misleading people about their calcination programme success and thus politicking the issue.  Despite spending significantly more on vaccinations than other countries, and consequently causing EU deliveries to be held up , the UK trails behind a number of countries both large and small. Importantly, our findings recognise that small, independent countries have been more than capable of vaccinating their populations and in fact, have fully vaccinated a greater percentage of their populations than the UK.

Why leave one union (UK) to join another (EU)?

Several people have requested the answer to the question “why would Scotland leave one union, the UK, to join another, the EU?”

To make sense, this question relies on the premise that the two unions are similar in how they impact on national sovereignty when they clearly are not.  

A better way to look at the question is to ask what are the differences between the two unions in terms of how they affect the sovereignty of a member-state? We researched the facts and we found the following:  

The Truth about Scotland’s Sovereignty 

Scotland is currently not a sovereign state, as a part of the UK, but an independent Scotland would still be a sovereign country even if it were a member of the EU.

The Facts

  • Scotland is a nation within a union but in terms of statehood the union (UK) is recognised as the sovereign state. Scotland is not a sovereign state and will not be until it achieves independence from the union in a way that is internationally recognised.
  • The power that has been devolved to the Scottish Government is power delegated by the UK government which it can technically remove at any time. So, even though Scotland's Government may for arguments sake have parliamentary control over between 20-30% of the laws that effect Scotland, ‘power devolved is power retained’ and Scotland is not a sovereign state.
  • A basic definition of sovereignty, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary and the Oxford Living Dictionaries, is that it refers to superiority or supremacy usually in terms of the power to make political decisions within a territory.
  • International relations theory, distinguishes between internal and external sovereignty. In short, internal sovereignty is basically a state’s right to self-determination, and external sovereignty refers to the international recognition of a state that enables membership and access to international organisations and resources.1
  • Nowadays, it is widely accepted that state sovereignty is the primary constitutive principle of modern political life.2 This means that sovereignty is a prerequisite for joining international political unions and organisations such as the EU and United Nations (UN).  
  • Participations in political unions and organisations is what what provides a nation with a voice in the international political arena.3
  • Joining the EU is voluntary and so although membership requires the UK to accept and enact on EU laws and regulations that does not mean that the UK parliament’s supremacy over making laws has been reduced. This is because firstly the UK joined voluntarily, had a veto over new treaties and was able to leave when it deemed fit.  
  • By joining the EU, the UK participated actively in the EU’s decision-making processes, which would had otherwise been impossible.
  • The UK, much like Denmark, Poland and Ireland, had the opportunity to negotiate and opt-out from EU legislations such as using the Euro and adopting the Schengen agreement on full freedom of movement of peoples4.
  • The EU is also called a union but it does not require the sovereignty of its members to be transferred to the European Parliment.  Membership does require member states to align the laws that facilitate trade, quality and safety standards etc the elements of a function single market.
  • The UK did not exchange its sovereignty for its EU membership; the ability to hold the 2016 EU referendum through an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (European Union Referendum Act 2015) is the best proof of that. The resulting difficulties of negotiating withdrawal deal and any future difficulties over negotiating trade deals in the 2020 transition period are not a result of a lack of UK sovereignty but rather the lack of the UK’s negotiating power due to the relative sizes of the EU with 27 member states and the UK on its own. 
  • To join the EU a state must be 100% sovereign and thus able both agree to align the required laws and also to leave the EU if it wishes to as the UK has proven.  

Verdict

Brexit represents a clear cut example that the UK has remained a sovereign country throughout its period of EU membership. This would be the case for an independent Scotland or any other sovereign states joining the EU as equal members. Ironically Brexit demonstrates that Scotland is not at all sovereign, as its democratic wish to Remain in the EU is being ignored as a part of the UK. Regaining sovereignty therefor, either as a member of the EU or otherwise, is one of the strongest arguments for why Scotland should leave the United Kingdom.

On the other hand, the voluntary sharing of sovereignty, in terms of accepting EU legislation, is inevitable in the same way it is inevitable for everyone that decides to be a member of a democratic society to follow its laws and norms as well as to participate actively in their making. This is actually something that enhances rather than reduces sovereignty. 

In an interconnected world with interdependent economies facilitating trade and prosperity through aligning a small percentage of a nations laws with others is what makes a functioning single market possible. This in turn allows sovereign states to gain access to a larger pool of opportunities for development alongside other member-states without the loss of national sovereignty which is required to maintain membership of the UK.

References: 

  • James, A. (1984), `Sovereignty: Ground Rule or Gibberish?’ Review of International Studies 10(1), pp. 1-18, p. 2.
  • Walker R.B.J. (1990), ‘Security, Sovereignty, and the Challenge of World Politics,’ Alternatives: Global, Local, Political, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp: 3-27. 
  • Wallace W. (1999), ‘The Sharing of Sovereignty: The European Paradox,’ Political Studies XLVII, pp. 503-521, p. 503.
  • Briggs M. (2015), Europe ‘à la carteʼ: The whats and whys behind UK opt-outs, Euractiv: https://www.euractiv.com/section/uk-europe/linksdossier/europe-a-la-carte-the-whats-and-whys-behind-uk-opt-outs/

Would an independent Scotland be in the EU?

It is probably not surprising that during Brexit week that the most frequently asked questions on the site relates to Scotland’s membership of the EU. Would Scotland be a member of the EU? Could it become a member of the EU? and would there be a referendum on joining the EU in an independent Scotland?

The first point to observe is that the UK will leave the EU on Friday, January 31st 2020. Therefore, when Scotland becomes independent it will not be a member of the EU. This is a significant change to the situation in 2014, when the UK was still a member of the EU and so was Scotland, by virtue of being part of the UK.

In the 2016 EU referendum, Scotland voted Remain by a margin of 62% to 38%. Since the Brexit vote, the political divergence between Scotland and the rest of the UK has widened significantly. This is demonstrated clearly by the fact that in the 2019 General Election, the SNP, who are avidly pro-EU, won 80% of the seats available in Scotland. Meanwhile, an avidly anti-EU Conservative majority formed in England, and therefore, in the UK as a whole. More recently, a poll for YouGov published on 28th January 2020 asked: “Was Britain Right/Wrong to vote to leave EU?”. When the ‘Don’t Knows’ are removed, 46% of UK voters thought that it was not a mistake, whereas 54% thought it was a mistake. Looking at regional subsamples, we can see that some areas, such as the South of England, Midlands and Wales, still marginally support Brexit. However, in Scotland, 73% thought Brexit was a mistake. Thus, Scotland is clearly the most EU supportive part of the UK.

So would an independent Scotland be a member of the EU?

That would be a decision for the people of an independent Scotland and the Government of Scotland. However, the significant number of people in Scotland that support EU membership would probably hold sway, and if there was a referendum on re-joining the EU, a sizeable mandate would be highly probable.

That said there is a simpler answer. The SNP, who currently run the Scottish Government, would be the political leaders in any independence referendum in the next few years and have a policy of Scotland being an independent nation within the EU. This is also backed by the other main pro-independence party the Scottish Green Party. This means that any vote to become independent would be predicated on a mandate to rejoin the EU.

Could Scotland rejoin the EU after Independence?

There is absolutely no technical reason why Scotland could not rejoin the EU. Some politicians say that Scotland would have to use the Euro. However, that is not the case, as we explained last week. Others say that Scotland’s deficit is too high. There are two clear misunderstandings at play here. First of all, there is no strict deficit requirement for being an EU member. The target of a 3% deficit refers to being part of the Euro Currency Zone, and that, therefore, does not apply.

The second misunderstanding is that no one actually knows what the deficit or surplus in an independent Scotland would be. We will answer the question "will an independent Scotland have a deficit?” in a future FAQ article.

In 2014, claims were made that Scotland couldn’t join the EU if it became independent and this was an important factor in the No Campaign win. Back then, the UK was a member of the EU and the EU could not make statements that interfered with the internal politics of member states. After the Brexit vote, many individual MEPs spoke out about an independent Scotland’s ability to rejoin the EU and as MEPs in the European Parliament voted to accept the Withdrawal Agreement, agreed with the UK Government, they held hands and poignantly sang the Scottish Song Auld Lang Syne (Burns).

A large group of MEPs, largely from the European Green Alliance, also gathered after the vote to say that they would leave a light on for Scotland to find it’s way back (something it can only do now after independence). Indeed, as far back as 2017, a group of 50 politicians from across Europe signed a letter stating that an independent Scotland would be “most welcome” as a full member of the European Union. Finally, the EU’s lead Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, stated that he felt that “It's wrong that Scotland might be taken out of EU, when it voted to stay and that he was happy to discuss with the Scottish FM”.

Verhofstadt, the former Belgium Prime Minister, also said: “If Scotland decides to leave the UK, to be an independent state, and they decide to be part of the EU, I think there is no big obstacle to do that.” He added it would be “suicide” for the EU to refuse entry to people who are “sympathetic” to the EU’s aims.

Verdict

After the UK leave the EU on January 31st 2020, Scotland will not be a member of the EU. Therefore, maintaining membership automatically (as was the wish of the Scottish Government in 2014) looks unlikely.

There is absolutely no reason why an independent Scotland would not be able to swiftly join the EU, as an independent nation. Scotland already meets all of the EU standards on food hygiene, safety, workers rights etc., and so, already meets all of the EU’s membership criteria. The claims that Scotland’s deficit would stop it joining, that there is a queue for membership, or that Scotland would have to join the Euro, are all manifestly untrue.

So, given the significant majority support for EU membership in Scotland, it is almost impossible to imagine that an independent Scotland would not apply and then gain EU membership very swiftly after leaving post-Brexit Britain.