Nicola Sturgeon has made Scotland rejoining the EU a key aim along with Scottish independence, but not everyone in Europe was as keen as she was initially. This became apparent when Spain’s government stated that the UK would be approached as a single entity in Brexit talks, threatening to scupper the Scottish National Party (SNP)’s ambitions. Then-Spanish Secretary of State for the European Union, Jorge Toledo, rejected the First Minister’s proposals for a differentiated deal for Scotland whereby it would stay in the single market even if the rest of the UK comes out.
As EU member states must unanimously agree on policies such as this, the move gave Spain a veto on Scotland’s post-Brexit plans.
This came two days after Ms Sturgeon said Spain wasn’t likely to reject her proposals.
Ms Sturgeon’s paper argued that Scotland could join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Area (EEA) as a means of gaining full access to the single market if the UK sponsored it.
It cited the Faroe Islands trying to join the organisation as precedent, even though they have a population of less than 50,000 and have been trying unsuccessfully for a decade to be admitted.
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The First Minister’s plan also involved the Scottish Parliament getting some control over everything ranging from immigration to business regulation to international trade negotiations.
The document said this would allow Scotland to continue to mirror the business regime in the EU single market after Brexit.
However, she rejected a host of warnings that Scotland and England having different business and immigration regimes would inevitably lead to the creation of a hard border between the two.
Mr Toledo said of the proposals: “If the UK leaves the single market, the whole UK will leave the single market. There is only one negotiator, the UK government.”
Mr Toledo’s rejection of the plan came as a former adviser to the Scottish Parliament’s EU committee accused Ms Sturgeon of pursuing a policy that is “fundamentally dishonest” because she knew it had no chance of success.
The plans were also undermined by the warm welcome they received from Oriol Junqueras, the vice president of Catalonia.
He said: “The Scottish proposal shows that with political willingness everything is achievable. Europe will adapt itself to a ‘differential’ result for Scotland if this is requested by the British and the Scottish.”
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The tide in the EU appears to have shifted in recent years however.
Former European Council president Donald Tusk said in February that Brussels feels “empathy” towards an independent Scotland joining the EU.
When asked if this would be looked upon favourably, Mr Tusk said there would be enthusiasm but he warned the country would not be automatically accepted.
He said: “Emotionally I have no doubt that everyone will be enthusiastic here in Brussels, and more generally in Europe.
“If you ask me about our emotions, you will witness I think always empathy.”
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Brussels expert Anthony Salamone wrote a report published this year that claimed Scotland could join within five years of becoming an independent country.
It explains: “Scotland was previously part of the European Union for nearly five decades.
“On that basis alone, the Scottish economy is manifestly capable of forming part of the Union economy and responding sufficiently to its associated demands and forces.
“The Republic will therefore be in an extremely strong position to satisfy the economic criteria of the Copenhagen criteria.”
But it also adds any membership to the EU is likely to spark a border between England and Scotland.
Mr Salamone says it would be “unfortunate” but also claims it would be “manageable”.