Tuesday 30 January 2007

An Independent Wales in the EU

Another of the unionists arguments against Welsh independence is that we would find ourselves outside of the EU, and would have to join the queue of applicant countries which would leave Wales isolated for years.

This is just another myth which is being peddled to keep us in line, but which is easily dismissed, as we would have the full backing of international law, in the shape of:

The Vienna Convention on Succession of States in respect of Treaties 1978

Which deals with how international treaties are to be applied to newly independent states. In particular, the following article seems to sum things up nicely:

Article 34 -Succession of States in cases of separation of parts of a State
1.When a part or parts of the territory of a State separate to form one or more States, whether or not the predecessor State continues to exist:

(a) any treaty in force at the date of the succession of States in respect of the entire territory of the predecessor State continues in force in respect of each successor State so formed;

or to put it as simply as I can:

If Wales splits from the UK, irrespective of whether the UK would still exist, any international treaty, eg relating to EU membership, would remain in force relating to bothWales and England/UK.

The Convention also gives us the right to withdraw from such treaties if we choose, subject to suitable notice, and we could for example choose to leave NATO. The Convention also gives us the right to notify that we want to be bound by only part of the treaty, and we could for example opt out of fishing quotas (just to use a hypothetical example).

The important thing is that we would be deemed to be already covered by the EU treaty, and that it would be up to us to choose our future within it – this is not a decision that the remaining UK would make on our behalf.


Normal Mouth said...

We've talked about this in the previous post. There is no such automaticity in international law and much would depend on the circumstances by which Wales achieved her independence. The Vienna Treaty has been used in the past to wipe a new state's treaty obligations clean (see my comments in the previous post), so invoking Vienna in itself is inconclusive.

A much more useful analysis would be to examine how other Member States would react to Welsh independence; there is good reason to suggest that several may indeed wish to give a newly independent Wales as rocky a ride as possible with respects to EU membership, so as to send to a signal to their own autonomous regions/nations. One only has to look at the very close interest Spain takes in all matters to do with Northern Ireland to realise that the self interest of Member States could very well collide with Wales's European ambitions.

Still, if you want to wrap yourselves in the comfort blanket that Wales will have automatic entry into the EU that's up to you.

Penddu said...

You are right that Spain & France will have their own reasons to frustrate Welsh ambitions, but as I have also said in earlier posts - Scotland will do the trail blazing for us, and will set the neccesary precedents.

Normal Mouth said...

I'm glad that you accept that precedents have to be set. This is not the tone of your post, which seems to indicate it is a done deal. It's not.

Penddu said...

I didnt say that precedents would have to be set - I said that they would be - simply because Scotland would go first.

Nothing is ever black and white once lawyers get involved, but the balance of this argument seems to be far more in favour of an independent Wales being deemd to be inside the EU than being outside.

Normal Mouth said...

Yes, but the trouble is that "the balance" of your argument appears to be nothing more than a bald clause in a treaty, which as I have indicated has already been interpreted in case law in a markedly different way than you have chosen to do.

You wish to prove a case, namely that Wales can exist and prosper as an independent state. That's a worthwhile enterprise, but it risks losing credibility if you simply rely on propaganda and half-baked assumptions, especially if you also complain that the case for independence has itself suffered from such distortion.

Be candid; admit there is a degree of ambiguity about the status an independent Wales could have (how could there be other? We do not even know how or if independence could come about). You will do your cause a greater service if you combat myth with hard fact, even if those facts are an admission that no one is in full possession of all the necessary information. In the long run you will make your opponents’ argument look a deal weaker if they rely on hysterical nonsense while you have thought your case through properly.

I've looked elsewhere on this blog. The article you describe as “excellent” by David Thomas is a superficial and emotive analysis. Do you seriously endorse his claim that Aberfan can be laid at the door of the Welsh constitutional settlement? Do you seriously believe that Wales will get an £8bn “rebate” from PFI? Do you honestly accept his implication that an independent Wales would spend less than £160 million on defence?

There is a load more that you are not confronting. How many votes will an independent Wales get in the Council of Ministers? Four or five. England or the UK will have its share reduced to perhaps 27. What will be the practical outcome of this? Wales will need to find allies on the Council in order to have any hope of getting its way. Where will she turn? In all probability, and for a huge number of votes it will be England/UK. Except now England/UK would not be obliged to consider the needs of Wales in its negotiations, except tactically. These are practical, thorny issues that any nation considering its constitutional settlement needs to consider. Merely banging on about nasty old Peter Hain is nothing more than sticking your tongue out at the wicked old English.

Penddu said...

Uhh... I never described that article as Excellent - I think you have someone else.

And as far as possible I have stuck to facts or at least to objective opinions - I have stated my background for my EU position as based on Vienna convention - all you have posted are your personal unsupported opinions.

ps I thought Peter Hain is a South African??

Normal Mouth said...

Apologies - I was referring to the collective "you", i.e the authors of this blog.

My opnions are not unsupported. I have cited exmples of states that have not automatically inherited the treaty obligations of their parent or predecessor states. You, on the other hand, cited Greenland - which you later acknowledged was not analagous. I say again; the mere existence of the Vienna Treaty in and of itself is inconclusive.

As for Peter Hain, the fact that he hails from South Africa changes nothing. In deriding him you are resorting to attacking his government, which is merely another way of sticking two fingers up at the English. Little wonder opponents of Welsh independence have found it so easy to dismiss your arguments thus far.

There is detail to be debated, such as the Council of Ministers point I set out above, or the case for a sub-national Europe of the Regions (which would incidentally deal with the fundamental problem, namely the massive dispartity in size and influence between the nations of the UK). Ignoring thid tricky stuff and wasting your time ridiculing unionists will be just that - a waste of time.

Penddu said...

You cited two examples which were both 100 years before the Vienna Convention was written - where are your contemporary examples??

Normal Mouth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Normal Mouth said...

As already cited, the successor states of the USSR provide good examples of states who, while clearly being successor states (the predecessor state having ceased to exist) have instead laid claim to being newly independent States under Article 16 of the Treaty. As such they are not bound to the treaty obligations of the old USSR, specifically the International Convention on Human Rights.

The status of newly independent State was created to allow dependent territories of a state to come into being, and Article 16 was devised to free them from potentially onerous treaty obligations placed upon the parent state. But these states have been allowed by the international community to designate themselves thus.

And this is the nub of my argument and has been the whole way through. The Treaty may appear to give clear guidance (such as Article 34) but if the politics dictate a different interpretation and if it is in enough parties’ interests to compel a different interpretation, then a different Article under the Treaty can and will be invoked and in so doing international case law will be created. There is now precedent for states that look, smell and feel like successor states to be designated as newly independent states (that may even have a material impact on Wales’s independence negotiations, should that point ever arrive for her).

I hope you can now agree that the Vienna Treaty in and of itself guarantees Wales very little in respect of EU membership. Of far more material significance will be the circumstances under which independence happens, and how the rest of the EU and the world respond.

Or as I’ve said from my opening sentence on this exchange, “Much would depend on the manner of Wales’s independence”.

Gareth said...

But it was the Baltic states' choice not to be subject to the treaties; if they hadn't specified this then according to the treaty they would be subject to them automatically. The same then would presumably apply to an independent Scotland/Wales -- whether they remained part of the EU would be their choice on independence.

Penddu said...

As Gareth says - The Convention gives the choice on whether to be bound or not to be bound by previous treaties to the Succesor State, and this is what the Baltic States did.

The Convention is equally clear (Article 34) that a Successor State has the right to remian within an existing treaty - and this is what we are talking about with Wales & the EU.

But as I said, nothing ever remains clear-cut once the lawyers get involved (Clear Mouth ???)

Normal Mouth said...

Please, call me Normal.

Your interpretation still fails to capture the myriad uncertainties in this process. It is not simply a matter of the lawyers getting involved. It is much more a question of the international community getting involved. And many of them will do so on the basis of self-interest, rather than what Wales wants.

It may not therefore be a question of Wales simply choosing how she wishes to designate herself under the Vienna Treaty and the rest of the world nodding it through. The succession states of the USSR (not the Baltic states, btw) were permitted to invoke Article 14 because it suited others. But it is easy to foresee a scenario in which a number of others (Spain, Canada etc) resisting Wales's succession under Article 34. She might then decide that independence under Article 14 is the next best thing.

So it really is no good carrying on as if the Treaty is clear. It's never going to be that clear. And no, I don't just mean the lawyers.

Penddu said...

Clear...Normal... sounds the same (sorry)

Penddu said...

Seriously, the whole point of this long discussion was to kill the unionist myth notion that Wales would automatically start its independence outside of the EU. I believe that the Vienna Convention supports the opposite, but I also acknowledge that vested interests, in partcular France & Spain will oppose it, and there will be a lot of tough negotiations ahead.

But this thread has served its purpose which was to bring an important issue regarding independence out into the open. Time to move on.

Normal Mouth said...

You're right. There's load more detail on this blog that deserves scrutiny. Such as the claim that an independent Wales would not apparently have to honour her civil servants' pensions...