Comments in a recent post on this site about the concentration of British Euroscepticism in England raised some interesting hypothicals regarding how Britain-EU and Scotland-EU relations would be affected if Scotland were one day to become independent.

In one part of Europe, these hypothetical scenarios are far less academic, as an extract from a new book about the Basque country in today’s Independent illustrates:

Whatever the feelings in the rest of Spain, a united Europe is an idea that resonates with Basques, although they are not always happy with the way this new giant Europe is run.

To the left, it seems too friendly to corporations and not open to individuals and small business. The dichotomy between large and free, which Victor Hugo promised would not exist, sometimes seems a reality. But the idea of not having a border through their middle, of Europeans being borderless and tariffless partners, seems to many Basques to be what they call “a natural idea”.

“If Europe works, our natural region will be reinforced,” said the writer Daniel Landart. Ramon Labayen said: “The European Union represses artificial barriers.” Asked what he meant by an artificial barrier, he said, “Cultures are not barriers. Borders are barriers.”

The borders around Basqueland endure because they are cultural, not political.

Basque leader Arzalluz said, “The concept of a state is changing. They have given up their borders, are giving up their money. We are not fighting for a Basque state but to be a new European state.” A 1998 poll in Spanish Basqueland showed that 88 percent wanted to circumvent Madrid and have direct relations with the European Union.

In the idealised new Europe, economies are merged, citizenship is merged. But those who support the idea deny that countries will be eliminated. There will simply be a new idea of a nation — a nation that maintains its own culture and identity while being economically linked and politically loyal to a larger state. Some 1,800 years ago, the Basques told the Roman Empire that this was what they wanted. Four centuries ago, they told it to Ferdinand of Aragon. They have told it to Francois Mitterrand and Felipe Gonzalez and King Juan Carlos.

They watch Europe unfolding and wonder what has happened to their old adversaries. Most of the political leaders endorse the new Europe whether their citizens do or not. The Basques watch the French and Spanish give up their borders and their currency and wonder why it is so easy for them.

Why didn’t Mitterrand worry about the “fabric of the nation being torn&rdqou;? Why does Madrid not worry about losing its sovereignty? And if they do not worry about these things, why do they feel threatened by the Basques? The Basques are not isolationists. They never wanted to leave Europe. They only wanted to be Basque. …