By Catherine Brölmann and Thomas Vandamme
By a narrow margin, the 300-year-old union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom survived the referendum held on 18 September 2014. British – and Scottish – membership in the EU has been one of the prominent factors in the political debate, which has addressed issues like the effect of a reduced UK on the balance of power within the EU and the consequences of Scottish independence for the imminent ‘Brexit’ referendum. Yet the legal framework for secession within the Union, which these political narratives presuppose, is all but clear. In this blog we explore some important legal and political aspects of the scenario of secession within the Union.
The question of the legal framework remains highly salient even given the victory of the No Campaign. Scottish independence may have been averted for now, but other regions in Europe with strong cultural and linguistic identities have similar aspirations. There is, of course, Catalonia where a referendum on independence (although ex ante declared illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court) is scheduled for 9 November 2014. Meanwhile, in the Belgian region of Flanders, a persistently vital pro-independence movement experiences one electoral success after another, rendering the country increasingly difficult to govern. Political developments such as these remind us that secession of federated states, countries, or regions from EU Member States is a real possibility.