Tags: Scotland Vote | merkel | scots | no | vote

Merkel Trust in Scots No Vote Shows Europe Unprepared

Thursday, 18 September 2014 07:03 AM

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is counting on Scots to reject independence and hasn’t made contingency plans for a U.K. split, underscoring a lack of preparedness across Europe before today’s referendum.

While Merkel has avoided weighing in on Scotland’s future, German policy makers view independence as an ill-advised choice for Scots and are concerned it would spur separatism in other European Union countries such as Spain, according to three government officials in Berlin who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.

The possible breakup of the EU’s third-biggest economy has been low on Europe’s agenda as leaders focused on the Ukraine conflict and the advance of Islamic State militants in Iraq. While the “yes” campaign for Scottish independence gathered steam, Merkel spent days campaigning in three German state elections.

“Everybody seems to have underestimated what Scottish independence may mean,” said Joerg Forbrig, an analyst at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin, citing questions about the future of U.K. nuclear weapons and Scottish membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “Nobody wants the disintegration of any European countries, be it Scotland or Catalonia.”

All surveys suggest the contest over Scotland’s future tightened in the final days of campaigning. Four of the five latest polls showed the anti-independence Better Together group backed by Prime Minister David Cameron and the main U.K. parties leading the “yes” campaign by 52 percent to 48 percent, excluding undecided voters.

Spanish Fallout

Spain, grappling with its own separatist movement in Catalonia, is sensing the possible fallout. An independent Scotland would set a “terrible precedent,” Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said on Sept. 16.

“The secession of Scotland would be bad for Scots, for the U.K. and the EU,” starting “a process of Balkanization that nobody in Europe wants,” he said in a speech in Madrid yesterday.

The British pound has lost 3.1 percent against the U.S. dollar since the start of August as polls showing a growing “yes” vote led to market uncertainty. The yield on Spanish 10- year bonds climbed the most in 15 months on speculation the vote could stoke the Catalan region’s bid for autonomy.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said a vote for independence in Scotland would “change many things” in Europe.

“If they vote ‘no’, this needs to be taken into account,” he told France Inter radio this week. “If they vote ‘yes,’ it will mean there is one more country and it will have many implications for the U.K. and for Europe.”

German Slip

Merkel, the leader of Europe’s biggest economy and an advocate of keeping Britain in the EU, has done her best to stay neutral on Scotland in public, saying she doesn’t want to meddle an internal U.K. debate.

While German policy makers have been discussing the Scottish vote, they haven’t made contingency plans as independence would require talks on EU and NATO membership that might take years, two of the officials said.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier briefly departed from the official line by expressing sympathy for preserving the U.K. “I admit to you that I’d rather see Great Britain remain together,” he said in Berlin on Sept. 11 alongside his U.K. counterpart, Philip Hammond.

EU officials in Brussels have mostly kept silent. A December 2012 letter by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso suggested a breakaway Scotland would no longer fall under EU treaties signed by the U.K. and would have to re- apply to become the bloc’s 29th country, with unanimous backing by members. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said an independent Scotland would face a similar process with the military alliance.

“It’s going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible - - a new member state coming out of one of our countries, getting the agreement of the others,” Barroso said in a Feb. 16 interview on BBC Television’s “Andrew Marr Show.”


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German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government is counting on Scots to reject independence and hasn't made contingency plans for a U.K. split, underscoring a lack of preparedness across Europe before today's referendum. While Merkel has avoided weighing in on Scotland's...
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Thursday, 18 September 2014 07:03 AM
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