It seems Scotland and Northern Ireland may both be interested in staying in the EU. It seems some in the EU are not keen. It seems that either of them breaking off from the UK would then be stuck applying like any other country to join the EU.
However, things are not as simple as when considering a legal entity in a contract. I mean, what is the UK as a party to these international treaties exactly? How is a country defined? After all, they change all the time in subtle ways.
So thought experiments:
- If, say, the Isle of Wight decided to leave the UK, the rest of the UK would still be the UK and still be in the EU (for now). That seems obvious.
- So what if Wales left? After all, Wales was one of the countries that came together to make the UK a new entity. Would the UK vanish and cease to exist if Wales left? Or would the" residual" UK still be valid and be the UK, and still be the "entity" that is (currently) in the EU?
- How far could it go? I mean, could Scotland and Northern Ireland join forces, and say they are "the United Kingdom" and that England and Wales are "leaving" the UK, but the residual UK that is Scotland and NI are still the UK and so still members of the EU with no need to renegotiate anything or make new treaties?
- What if NI merged in to Ireland? Would that be OK? Would Ireland remain the same entity as a party to treaties and the EU, just bigger, and hence be, as a whole, an EU member still with NI?
- What if Scotland decided to join Ireland? Would that be too much and mean Ireland is no longer the same thing?
- What if a country in the EU now changed its name, e.g. Ireland become the "Celtic Union", and then let Scotland join them as a new combined country and part of the EU member formally known as "Ireland"?
If I was the SNP I would be asking these questions in all seriousness though.
After all, if Scotland was allowed to “join” Ireland as an EU member, they could operate a “devolved government” system which basically means they are only there for the green card, I mean EU membership, and not really in bed with each other.