I had the pleasure of meeting Lucinda Creighton, Ireland’s very impressive Minister for European Affairs, when I was in Dublin yesterday.
You may have seen a clip of an interview she gave to BBC on the news last night and reported in some papers today – the impression given was that there was a difference of opinion between her and the Scottish Government on the issue of Scotland’s continuing EU membership.
The email she sent me earlier today – attached here with her permission – makes clear that is not the case.
I want to thank you for a brief but informative meeting yesterday. I am concerned that an interview which I conducted with the BBC is being misconstrued and wanted to assure you that it certainly was not my intention to interfere in any way with your domestic debate.
It certainly was not my intention to intervene in the Scottish debate about the future of your country. As I stated clearly to the BBC (though perhaps they did not show it) this is a question exclusively for the Scottish people and I fully respect that fact.
I was asked about the future of negotiations with the EU in the event that Scotland votes for independence. I thought that my reply was largely in line with that of the Scottish Government. I certainly did not at any stage suggest that Scotland could, should or would be thrown out of the EU. Scottish people are clearly citizens of Europe.
I did answer the question about hypothetical negotiations with the EU. I think it is clear that a newly independent state would have to (and would have the right to and indeed should) negotiate the terms of membership, as they would undoubtedly be somewhat different to the existing terms. I did say that this would take some time, which I expect it would. I also went on to say that a newly independent Scotland would be welcome as an EU partner (and I think that applies to all EU member states including Ireland).
My understanding is that the Scottish Government has already committed to a negotiation with the EU between 2014 and 2016, if you vote for independence in 2014. If my interview suggested something other than that, this was not my intention. I think my comments have been misconstrued. I sincerely regret this.
As SNP Westminster Leader, Angus Robertson said ‘Negotiations on the terms of membership would take place in the period between the referendum and the planned date of independence’, and that ‘The EU would adopt a simplified procedure for the negotiations, not the traditional procedure followed for the accession of non-member countries’.”
I think that sums up the situation quite well.
I hope that this clarifies my position, and again I regret that my words seem to have been presented or taken out of context.