Scottish independence: what it would mean for the border between Scotland and England – Dr Alison Smith

If Scotland became independent and joined the EU, the border with England would become more important (Photo: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)

Professors Katy Hayward, Queen’s University Belfast, and Nicola McEwan, University of Edinburgh, both border and territory experts, teamed up to write the report, which was published last week by the independent research organization UK in a Changing Europe. It offers the most authoritative analysis to date on the question of the boundary between Scotland and England.

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The report assumes that an independent Scotland would eventually join the European Union, as proposed by the SNP, although this is a gradual process. The Scotland-England border would therefore become an external border of the EU and should become “harder”.

What would that look like in practice? The report suggests that there would be customs checkpoints on four main roads: the M6/M74; the A1; the A68; and the A6091/A7.

Traffic could be maintained by dividing the national roads in two: a “green lane” for those who have nothing to declare or pre-declared goods; and a “red lane” for those with goods to declare.

Secondary roads could be monitored using cameras. Natural barriers such as mountains and rivers define much of the border between Scotland and England, and Scotland is otherwise surrounded by sea, so the risk of smuggling would be relatively low. However, Scotland and England should cooperate closely on crime, security and border control.

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Many Scots want to know if they would retain passport-free travel to the rest of the UK if Scotland became independent. The answer is “probably”. The Common Travel Area (CTA) facilitates freedom of movement between Britain and Ireland, including the right to live, work, travel and vote.

In principle, an independent Scotland could negotiate the same status as Ireland. This would mean joining the CTA and withdrawing from the EU Schengen zone. However, Scotland would have no automatic right to these concessions from the UK and EU, and negotiations could become bogged down on other issues.

If Scotland became independent and joined the EU, it would regain frictionless trade with 31 EU and European Economic Area (EEA) countries, but lose frictionless trade with England and the Land of Wales.

This is important because 60% of Scotland’s trade is with the rest of the UK. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which now governs trade between the UK and the EU, imposes customs declarations, checks and controls on goods crossing the border. Some small Scottish businesses have found the new rules so onerous that they have stopped trading across the UK-EU border. Large companies hired staff to deal with bureaucracy.

The rules governing the movement of animals, animal products and plants across the UK-EU border are particularly onerous, as Scottish fishermen and farmers exporting to the UK have already discovered. EU.

It is possible that the UK and EU will reach an agreement on sanitary and phytosanitary standards before any independence vote. Otherwise, trade with England under the current Trade and Cooperation Agreement would hit Scotland’s important agri-food sector hard. Transporting agricultural products from one side of the border to the other for the various stages of processing would no longer be viable.

Scotland should also work out how to get goods to and from the mainland. The report identifies three options: developing direct ferry services to the EU; for sealed trucks to cross the English “land bridge”; and to use the island of Ireland as a “land bridge”. Since the UK left the EU, new ferry routes between Ireland and the mainland have opened up as carriers seek to avoid delays and red tape at Britain’s ‘land bridge’.

Over time, businesses would adapt and new opportunities would open up. When Ireland joined the European Economic Community in 1973, more than half of its trade was with the UK. Today, that figure is nine percent. However, this gradual change took 50 years.

The report warns Scotland should not expect to replicate Northern Ireland’s special status, with a foothold in UK and EU regulatory areas. An exception has been made for Northern Ireland due to its violent recent history and the obligations created by the Good Friday Agreement.

If Scotland became independent and sought to join the EU, the EU would expect Scotland’s status to mirror that of the Republic of Ireland. Although negotiating a derogation from the Schengen zone is a realistic goal, the rest of the EU’s trade and border rules should be fully implemented.

The consequences of borders are as personal as they are economic. A hardening of the borders, with different rules on both sides, would complicate everything from family reunions to the organization of amateur horticultural shows.

The EU has strict rules for pets crossing borders: dogs must be vaccinated, microchipped and have a pet passport. Those who live in “border areas” would feel the full impact of a tougher border because they cross the border for daily tasks like work, shopping, visiting family and walking their dog.

Hayward and McEwan’s report is impeccably researched, unbiased and practical-oriented. It will ultimately be up to Scottish voters to decide whether the desire for political independence outweighs the costs and inconvenience of a tougher border.

However, there is no excuse to avoid incorporating Hayward and McEwan’s findings into any forthcoming white paper on Scottish independence.

Dr Alison Smith is an author and political analyst at Political Developments

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