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After Independence Day: The Road Ahead for an Independent Scotland


Guest post by Michael J. Geary

With three days to go before Scotland votes on whether to cut the cord on its 300-year relationship with London, opinion polls indicate that the final result is simply too close to call.United Kingdom Flag Iconscotland

The ‘Yes’ campaign had narrowed the gap and last week’s polls have forced London and the British establishment to take evasive action. Some called on Queen Elizabeth II, on vacation at her Scottish estate, to make a statement in support of maintaining the Union. Others, fearing that the wind was behind the pro-independence movement, have adopted more Machiavellian tactics with claims that banks would abandon Scotland if the ‘Yes’ side won. Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England repeated that an independent Scotland could not use the pound. Most of the claims made by London seem as dodgy as the dossier that made the case for Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war; most of it does not stand up to objective scrutiny. But if ‘Team Independence’ wins on 18 September, what are Edinburgh’s immediate objectives and challenges?

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RELATED: How an independent Scotland could enter the EU

RELATED: Why would an independent Scotland want to keep the pound?

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Scotland is not the first sub-territorial entity to seek independence and will not be the last. There are almost 60 secessionist movements worldwide with claims to independence. Most face similar challenges post-independence, but modern Scotland is better equipped than most to successfully navigate these obstacles but examining past precedents.

Ireland exited the United Kingdom in 1921; Armageddon did not follow, although it did experience a brief civil war over the terms of the independence agreement, having failed to secure Northern Ireland. The Free State government adopted a new Irish pound, which was for a number of decades pegged to sterling and monitored by a currency commission. Dublin had no central bank until 1943 and the Bank of Ireland acted as banker to the government until the early 1970s. Having left the Commonwealth, Ireland sought greater interdependence from Great Britain through full membership of all the main international organizations, including the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Communities.

For Scotland, the first 18 months after a ‘Yes’ result will be crucial not only for finding a solution to the currency question but also in securing membership within the international community. Continue reading After Independence Day: The Road Ahead for an Independent Scotland

Goodbye WTO, hello TTIP — United States and Europe hope to create world’s largest free trade zone


Guest post by Michael J. Geary

The United States and the European Union expect to begin negotiations next month on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in Washington, DC.  Their ambitious aim is to create the world’s largest trade and investment bloc that covers a combined consumer population of over 800 million people.  If the U.S.-E.U. talks prove successful, TTIP will become the biggest trade deal in history.USflagEuropean_Union

U.S. president Barack Obama announced, to mild surprise, in his February 2013 state of the union address before the U.S. Congress that the United States would begin TTIP talks with the European Union.  His announcement followed the publication of a report from the High Level Working Group, which had spent a year examining  various options for expanding transatlantic trade and investment.  The HLWG concluded that any deal between the United States and the European Union, in order to capture the most gains, would have to be comprehensive and include sensitive issues such as government procurement, a reduction in non-tariff barriers (NTBs), intellectual property rights, and employment and labour sectors.  In May, Obama nominated his close economic advisor and free trade proponent, Michael Froman, to become the next U.S. trade representative.  Froman’s selection was, therefore, an important sign that the Obama administration is serious about completing not only TTIP, but the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as quickly as possible.

The trade and investment pact features a number of ambitious goals.  At the most fundamental level, U.S. and European leaders hope to reduce the existing transatlantic tariffs and other barriers that amount to approximately 3.5%or less on a range of goods.  That will be by far the easiest element of TTIP to negotiate.  A recent report from the Bertelsmann Foundation showed that a 3.5% reduction in tariffs would increase German exports to the United States by 1.13% and increase German imports, respectively, by 1.65%.  Deeper trade liberalisation, including a reduction in NTBs would lead to even greater economic benefits in for U.S.-German trade.  That, in turn, will significantly affect traditional intra-European trade flows, such that trade between Germany and other member states will decline significantly upon the completion of a comprehensive TTIP accord. The Bertelsmann report showed that, in the long term, French exports to Germany would fall by 23%, Italian exports to Germany would decline by 30% and British exports to Germany would drop by fully 41%. Such a comprehensive transatlantic deal would therefore mark a major realignment of traditional European trading patterns, offset by access to a wider US market.  That pattern, moreover, is likewise is reflected in Bertelsmann’s assessment.  For example, exports from Ireland, Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Spain to the U.S. increase by an average of 86%, which presents a major boost to those European countries most adversely affected by the ongoing sovereign debt crisis. Aside from the potential boost to transatlantic trade, the European Commission argues that TTIP will generate close to 2 million additional jobs, half of which would be created in the United States.

Securing a comprehensive transatlantic trade agreement, however, will not be easy.   Continue reading Goodbye WTO, hello TTIP — United States and Europe hope to create world’s largest free trade zone

From Dublin to Dubrovnik: Reflections on 40 years of EU enlargement


Guest post by Michael J. Geary

Croatia on Monday becomes the 28th member of the European Union, marking a historical transformation for a country at the crossroads of central Europe, the Balkans and the Mediterranean.European_Unioncroatia

The second former Yugoslav country to join the European Union (following Slovenia, also a eurozone member), Croatia declared its independence in 1991, an event that led to the breakup of the union of Yugoslavia, an event that the United Nations and the European Union may have hastened in 1992 Croatia’s independence when they provided international recognition to a sovereign Croatia.  At the same time, the Croatian War of Independence broke out between Croat forces loyal to the newly independent Croatia and the Serb-controlled Yugoslav People’s Army and local Serb militia, the latter determined to prevent Croatia from breaking away. Between 1991 and 1995, when the conflict finally ended,more than 20,000 people had died and much of the country was destroyed.

Croatia, however, has marked major progress since the mid-1990s.  Successive Croatian governments have edged closer (albeit, sometimes with a gentle nudge from Brussels) to the European Union and the country formally applied for membership in February 2003.  A year later, the European Commission endorsed its application, and the European Council granted Croatia candidate status.  Enlargement negotiations proved difficult — not least because Slovenia, already an EU member state since 2004, had insisted that certain border disputes be resolved before Croatia could be accepted as a member.  The Slovenian veto stalled the negotiations for 10 months in the late 2000s before finally the two former Yugoslav nations agreed to settle border issues bilaterally.  Yet the extradition of Croatian citizens to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia proved to be a far thornier issue dominating the EU-Croatia enlargement talks.  The United Nations established the Tribunal in 1993 to deal with war crimes that took place during the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s. Croatia’s full cooperation with the Tribunal (reluctant at times) was a prerequisite for EU membership.

2013 is a year of contrasts for the EU enlargement process — arguably one its most successful policies, and one of the reasons that the European Union received the Nobel Prize for Peace last year.  Aside from Croatia’s pending membership, the European Union is set to open negotiations with Serbia and possibly sign a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo after those two countries signed a landmark agreement in April normalizing relations between Belgrade and Pristina after almost two decades of hostilities. Continue reading From Dublin to Dubrovnik: Reflections on 40 years of EU enlargement