Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt warned on Wednesday that Scottish independence would lead to the “Balkanisation” of the United Kingdom that would have consequences for the rest of Europe.
Bildt told the Financial Times newspaper that a vote for independence in September’s referendum which would see Scotland leave the 307-year-old union would trigger “unforeseen chain reactions” in both the United Kingdom and continental Europe.
“I think it’s going to have far more profound implications than people think,” said Bildt, a former Swedish prime minister and the United Nation’s special envoy to the Balkans in 1999-2001.
“The Balkanisation of the British Isles is something we are not looking forward to. It opens up a lot, primarily in Scotland but also in the UK. What are the implications for the Irish question? What happens to Ulster?”
Polls show Scots are unlikely to vote to break away from the United Kingdom, with roughly 40 per cent against independence and 30 per cent in favour, but there are still enough undecided Scots to swing the vote.
Key issues to emerge during the debate include the economic impact of a split, what currency would be used by an independent Scotland, and Scotland’s membership of the European Union.
Bildt said a “Yes” vote to independence on September 18 would start a turbulent process in which the rest of the United Kingdom – England, Wales and Northern Ireland – would probably have to renegotiate some of its EU membership terms.
After a vote to leave the union, Scotland’s ruling Scottish National Party has set an 18-month period to negotiate terms of independence and leader Alex Salmond has stressed that Scotland wants to stay in the EU.
“The vote is one thing. But there will then be a fairly painful period of separation, and how is that going to affect the EU relationship? I assume there will have to be renegotiation of votes [that the UK holds in EU decision-making],” Bildt told the newspaper.
Bildt also warned of the dangers of Britain leaving the EU after Prime Minister David Cameron promised to hold a referendum on membership by the end of 2017.
“The EU would lose a significant element of global clout. It would be an even bigger disaster for the UK,” he said.