In Painful Brexit, Scotland Would Still Lose From Leaving UK to Join EU


While the European Union will take measures to punish the UK for leaving amid a rising wave of populism, Scotland has little to gain from leaving the UK to join the EU, and such an effort may put Scottish independence efforts off for a long time, Anatol Lieven, Professor at Georgetown University in Qatar, told in an interview.

“The EU has obviously a vested interest in making this as unpleasant as possible because they want to send a very strong message to other countries, not to imitate Britain,” Lieven told

Lieven noted that while Geert Wilders’ eurosceptic party did not do as well as it had hoped in the Dutch parliamentary elections and Le Pen is not likely to win the French presidency, the EU still has to “make a horrible example of Britain to discourage other people from following.”

At the same time, the prospects of Scotland leaving the UK seem bleak, both because the EU is in very poor shape and because Scotland would have to shift from being a UK subsidy recipient to an EU subsidy donor.

“The Scots, while being much poorer than England, and maintaining their social welfare on the basis of British subsidies, in European terms, of course, are a wealthy donor country. They would be subsidizing donations to the Eastern Europeans, the Poles, the Bulgarians, the Romanians,” Lieven said.

Lieven noted that Scottish voters may find the EU less attractive once these issues are taken into account. A separate issue is whether Scotland would then join the euro: the main countries of the EU are in the euro, and not joining it would resign Scotland to the status of a “second-class citizen.” Joining the euro, however, has some caveats.

“As the unfortunate Greeks, Italians and Spanish have discovered, if you are in the euro, you have essentially surrendered control over your economic policy. If you are a relatively poor country trying to compete against the Germans while maintaining a strong welfare state, you are going to be told by the Germans, by the European central bank that this won’t do, that you’re going to have to slash your welfare state, health service, raise the age of pensions, et cetera,” Lieven added.

Will Brexit Strengthen European Solidarity? Benjamin Wegg-Prosser, Piotr Dutkiewicz
Brexit happened because of the decline of confidence in the elites and the willingness of the British electorate to vote even against their own economic interests. But now the British government has to go a long way to match that high bar that was raised. The consequences of Brexit can weaken the economic and political influence of the UK.

While the EU previously offered a vision of social market capitalism with a welfare state, as opposed to the Anglo-American model, the 2008 financial crisis changed that, with EU-imposed austerity, Lieven noted. This would be against the interests of Scottish nationalists, according to Lieven, although they are likely to go on with the push for a referendum, although it is also a considerable risk, when it comes to the Scottish independence movement.

“If the Scottish nationalists hold a referendum and are defeated again, that means that they have been defeated twice on a vote for independence. At that point, it will be a good many years until they can hold another referendum because people will simply get sick of being asked the same question over and over again,” Lieven concluded.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

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