Italy, Belgium and Spain would not welcome the prospect of being asked to agree to European Union membership of a country that had split from its former partners. The example would be highly contagious – writes our secret columnist in Brussels Schadenfreude
In a debate in January, in the Scottish Parliament, the Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon asked the rhetorical question: “Which European Union country would not want to have Scotland as a member?” She would have done well to check with Rome, Brussels and Madrid.
The Northern League in Italy considers that it is the mainstay of the Italian economy and carries the burden of the “indolent” South. An independence movement is minimal but the central government has to pay attention to Northern demands.
Belgium is divided between the French-speaking Walloons and the Dutch-speaking Flemings. The Flemings house the major industries. Belgium is a patchwork of compromises and includes more sub-parliamentary bodies than anywhere else in Europe. Flemings resent traditional Walloon leadership especially in the main cities.
Spain has devolved partial autonomy to its regions. For their part, a number of the regions want more independence from the centre. Opinion is particularly strong in Catalonia, which has its own language, a close relative of Spanish. There is much talk of a possible referendum on Catalonian independence.
Italy, Belgium and Spain would not welcome the prospect of being asked to agree to European Union membership of a country that had split from its former partners. The example would be highly contagious.
A hypothetical Scottish application for EU membership would include several requests for exemptions, which the existing members would probably wish to debate at length – but not ‘pour encourager les autres’.