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The European Union and the United Kingdom Union

The Prime Minister’s speech today has kicked off a debate about whether the UK's terms of membership of the European Union should be re-evaluated.

There will be those within Better Together, and across Scotland, who agree with the Prime Minister’s approach and those who disagree. However it is important to note that all three pro UK parties agree that it is in the best interests of the UK to remain a member of the EU.

There are two ironies about the nationalist response to the EU debate.

The first is that, whatever side of this argument you are on, this is an honest debate about the terms of the UK's membership. The nationalists by contrast spent years denying that Scotland would have to negotiate the terms of independent membership of the EU.

The fact is, a separate Scotland would have to try and renegotiate an opt out from the Euro and the Schengen Agreement on open borders – not to mention the UK rebate worth around £135 for every Scottish household. As the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso confirmed any new independent state would become a “third country with respect to the EU”.

Will the nationalists now set out their own strategy for negotiating Scotland's EU membership?

The second irony is that while all three pro UK parties want the UK to remain in the European Union, but disagree on how best to do this, the nationalists are in complete agreement that they should remove us from the UK union - a far more important economic market for us than even the EU. Today the Scottish Government released new figures showing, once again, that trade with the United Kingdom Union, accounting for £45.5 billion of all exports, is larger than Scotland’s trade with every other country of the world combined.

There is debate about whether to examine the future terms of the UK membership of the EU. One thing is certain: an independent Scotland would be outside the UK and would therefore be forced to negotiate, from scratch, the terms of its membership of the EU, and as a small nation from a much less powerful position.