Once More unto the Breach? An Independent Scotland, Europe, and the Law

Today, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that she would ask the Scottish Parliament to allow her to agree with the UK Government on another independence referendum. The Scottish people should be given a right to decide – once the terms of Brexit are known – whether to stick with the UK and leave the EU or pursue the route of independence and stay within ‘Europe’. This blog post will briefly outline some of the legal obstacles on the way, both internal and external.

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Limiting the Constitutional Space of Scotland and Northern Ireland

Scotland might soon be having a second independence referendum, and Ireland is pushing for Northern Ireland rejoining the EU after Brexit. Why does the noble idea of a differentiated Brexit, that could absorb some of the tensions created by UK’s future withdrawal from the EU, seem to lose traction even within the political elites of Scotland and Northern Ireland? One possible answer might be that the UK political and constitutional framework does not provide for a supportive environment. In fact, the judgment of the Supreme Court in Miller points to the limits of the UK political and constitutional order to accommodate the demands of the devolved nations.

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The Miller decision: Legal constitutionalism ends not with a bang, but a whimper

Miller was essentially a case which was argued before, and decided by, the court on the basis of the English Imperial constitutional tradition forged in the Victorian age. This judgment has made the political constitution of the devolved United Kingdom as a whole more unstable, more brittle, more fragile and more likely to break-up precisely because it denies the devolved nations’ institutions any legal right to participate in the Brexit process.

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From Greenland to Svalbard: Scotland’s quest for a differentiated Brexit

On 20 December 2016, the Scottish Government released its blueprint on how Scotland can remain in the European Single Market post-Brexit. From the governing SNP’s point of view, the paper can be seen as a compromise given that it does not advocate Scottish independence. Instead, it proposes that the best outcome for the UK as a whole is to remain in the European Economic Agreement following the ‘Norway model’. It recognises, however, that in the current political constellation this seems unlikely. So, it argues for the continued membership of Scotland in the European Single Market.

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Scotland, Catalonia and the Constitutional Taboo of Secession

The UK constitution does not allow Scotland to unilaterally secede in the case of Brexit – in that respect its situation is not unlike Catalonia’s. Given the political nature of the UK uncodified constitution, it is almost unthinkable that a similar judicialisation of politics will occur in the UK as it did in Spain. However, unless Westminster takes seriously into account the demands of the devolved administrations in the Brexit negotiations, there is a real danger that a serious constitutional stalemate will occur.

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The High Court’s Judgment in Miller and Others – four brief remarks

Today’s decision by the High Court of England and Wales that the UK Government did not have the power under the Royal Prerogative to initiate the process of withdrawing from the EU laid down in Article 50 TEU came as a surprise to many. Four brief remarks on what the decision might entail politically.

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Theresa May’s Great Repeal Bill – a Scottish own goal?

Theresa May’s announcement of a Great Repeal Bill on Sunday has the hallmarks of a stroke of genius: It creates some momentum in the internal Brexit debate without substantively changing anything, it appeases the die-heart Brexiteers in her party, and it may kill off legal challenges pending in the courts of England and Northern Ireland demanding that Parliament be involved before Article 50 TEU is triggered. The Great Reform Bill however raises interesting constitutional questions with regard to the devolved nations of the UK, and in particular Scotland. Has Theresa May scored an own goal by allowing the Scots to block her first big step towards Brexit? Or is this part of an even more cunning plan to delay having to trigger Article 50 TEU for a very long time?

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INIS Free? Towards a Scots-Irish Union

A post Brexit union of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland would be one way of achieving what the majority of the electors of Northern Ireland and Scotland who voted in the Brexit referendum sought to achieve, namely to remain within the EU and retain their EU citizenship. Historically, there is considerable precedent for such a Scotch-Irish Union.

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BrEXIT AND BreUK-UP

How to balance the aim of the UK to leave the European Union with the complex independence and border issues this would cause in Scotland and Northern Ireland? One possible scenario could be for Scotland to broker a five-year EFTA-EEA "naughty step" membership for the United Kingdom, at the end of which Scotland could itself become an independent EFTA-EEA member state and thus be well positioned to re-enter the European Union.

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After Brexit: Time for a further Decoupling of European and National Citizenship?

According to the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, the issue of Scotland’s EU membership after Brexit is ‘a matter for the UK’. That statement is simply false: the future EU citizenship of UK nationals is not a domestic matter but an issue – perhaps the issue – for the Union as a whole to determine.

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