This is a claim made by many a unionist and the short answer is NO! It would not have to go to the back of the Queue.
The longer answer comes when you discover that there is actually no such things as a queue to join the European Union and here’s why:
To understand why there is no queue, first, you have to understand how the membership process works.
Any ‘European’ country who fulfils the EU criteria of membership can apply to join the EU. Membership criteria are known as the Copenhagen criteria. These include ‘a free-market economy, a stable democracy and the rule of law, and the acceptance of all EU legislation.
A country wishing to join the EU submits a membership application to the European Council, which asks the European Commission to assess whether the applicant can meet the Copenhagen criteria. If the Commission thinks so, the European Council agrees on a framework for negotiations with the candidate country. Membership negotiations cannot start until all EU governments agree.
Now when it comes to Scotland, the concern was always that Spain might veto that because it might set a precedent for Catalonia and strengthen their arguments for Independence from Spain. However, Spain since 2014 has rubbished that claim because when asked, they stipulated that the lawful independence of Scotland is allowed under UK constitution, there is a mechanism for it, however, the Spanish constitution, unfortunately for our friends in Catalonia specifically prohibits independence.
Negotiations to join the EU encompass 35 policy areas, known as chapters, covering all current EU legislation. Not all chapters are opened at the same time and the speed of negotiations depends on how quickly the candidate country can adopt EU legislation and fulfil the benchmark conditions set out by the EU. No negotiations on a chapter can be closed until every EU government is satisfied. The negotiation process is only concluded once every chapter has been closed.
Once negotiations are complete, the candidate country signs an Accession treaty, setting out when it will formally join the EU. This treaty has to be approved by all governments, the European Commission and the European Parliament. Each EU member state also has to ratify the treaty.
The “queue” that unionists speak about is to do with the 5 countries currently waiting to join the EU like Turkey who have been going through the process since 1987.
It is important to understand that the time taken to Join the EU is not a set schedule, it is fully dependant on how fast a country can get themselves into alignment with the requirements of the Copenhagen Criteria, also known as the “Acquis of the EU” (Rules of joining the EU).
Scotland has a serious advantage when it comes to complying with EU law for two reasons. Firstly, Scotlands legal system is separate from the rest of the UK, we have a very distinct and separate court system. Because of this, our legal system had to be made compliant with the EU when the UK joined, on its own. The same is true for the functioning of the legislative branch at the Scottish Parliament, how we conduct elections and most of the other matters under the Copenhagen criteria. We are already in the EU (albeit under the UK) but because of devolution, all of the devolved matters meet EU standards. They have to!
The only real criteria we don’t meet at the minute is financial. But that is not as massive an issue as you think it is.
The unionists like to scream that we’d have to adopt the Euro because it is part of the rules to join, but in truth, there is already precedent for not having to follow that particular rule and there are provisions in the Lisbon Treaty to actually allow Scotland to depart from the rules. These are called “derogations” and indeed Article 139 of the Lisbon Treaty specifically provides a mechanism where the EU can allow us not to adopt the Euro. The reason they would let us do that is that ironically, we don’t yet have our own currency (emphasis on YET).
The EU is going to approach negotiations for membership on what is best for EU citizens, all 200,000 of them in Scotland. The Yes Movement and the Scottish Government have both re-affirmed the position that our friends from the EU living in Scotland are an integral part of our society, they are our friends and family and we want to protect them. Unlike the hostile nature of the UK’s approach to negotiation where Westminster used them as bargaining chips, Scotlands negotiations to stay or re-enter the EU will be based on mutual respect and about protecting Scottish and EU citizens which means both sides are already on the same page. We do that by ensuring an expedient process and the quickest way to do that is to have the EU put through a derogation for currency.
To join the Euro, you have to first have your own independent currency. That currency then needs to be placed in what is called the ERM II (Exchange rate mechanism II) which monitors a countries economy for volatility and sets specific targets a country must meet in terms of economic volatility before it can join the Euro. That means a minimum of 2 years inside the ERM. Scotland not having its own currency from day one means that it couldn’t enter the ERM until it does.
The European Union will understand two very basic fundamental things:
1. Waiting for an independent currency to be completely set up in Scotland could take a good number of years, plus the 2 years minimum under the ERM. The EU will want to get us back in the door as fast as possible and holding up a membership application for that long when it wants to get us back in quickly would just be singularly stupid.
2. It is not reasonable to ask any nation to spend billions creating an independent currency and an economic infrastructure to then ask them to switch to the Euro 2 years later and in terms of having to exchange currency when coming to Scotland, people need to do that at the minute anyway so it’s not a massive deal.
Therefore it would be stupid to suggest the EU would hold up an EU application on the basis of these two things, so the EU could simply allow us to derogate from those requirements with a vote, quickly re-establishing Scotlands membership or negotiations to remain if they choose that route. With the remainder of the requirements already met (because we are already a member) it will be a rapid process, especially considering on 99% of matters we will be on the same page as the European Union because they want us as a member as quickly as possible and we want to stay or re-apply as soon as humanly possible.
This so-called queue is, therefore, a myth, it is only a matter of the speed we get ourselves into compliance and the things we can’t do are not a major issue because they can be derogated from, because the EU when it created the rules, did so in a manner where they knew that rules sometimes need to be changed or adapted for changing circumstances.
Oh! and there is the fact that there are already countries who have joined since those rules were created and did not have to adopt the Euro.