Rory pushes question of how an Independent Scottish Border would affect Cumbrians

In the first evidence session for the Foreign Affairs Select Committee’s inquiry into the implications of Scottish independence, Rory pressed witnesses on the impact of Scottish sovereignty on Cumbria.

Raising a chuckle as he began, “As the only member of parliament with ‘border’ in the constituency’s name”, Rory asked whether Scottish independence was not “a recipe for uncertainty for an economically deprived part of northern England”. The day’s inquiry was then focused on the possibility of border and frontier checks.

Witness Professor Richard Whitman of the University of Kent talked of the potential uncertainty which would come if Scotland did not or could not join the EU, immediately after independence, perhaps because of complicated negotiations about the Euro and Common Fisheries Policy, saying:  “All the states that have acceded to the European Union [recently] have had to accept both the single currency membership as an obligation and the Schengen agreement [on open borders] as an obligation.”

The witnesses added that since Scotland was likely to have a more liberal immigration policy than England, there would be strong pressure for English checks on the land border. And the remaining UK would be under pressure to make sure that its own border controls for people entering from outside the Schengen zone were sufficiently robust so as not to create problems for the Schengen members.

“The single currency is one thing but it’s the Schengen [border] issue that requires the most working through to make sure it doesn’t lead to absurdity,” said Professor Whitman. “The easiest solution politically would be for the rump UK to join Schengen but the more you look at it, the more you realise it’s irresolvable.”

Rory stated his bemusement at the Scottish desire to secede, stating: “We are intertwined. More than fifty percent of phone calls made in Carlisle – formerly a frontier town and the most besieged place in the British isles – are to Scotland. The village of Kershopefoot has a TD9 Scottish post-code, and many services are provided from North of the border. In Britain, our border with Scotland represents more a unity than a division. We are now in the centre of Britain, Scottish independence will put us on a difficult periphery, facing immigration and Schengen issues, which will benefit neither Scotland nor England.”

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