SNP’S EU BID IN TATTERS
Another setback for Sturgeon as Brussels president says no to letting Scots stay in
NICOLA Sturgeon’s bid to keep Scotland in the EU was in ruins last night after the Slovakian Prime Minister said Europe wants no more ‘political earthquakes’.
The intervention by Robert Fico is hugely significant as Slovakia yesterday took over the presidency of the EU ahead of the forthcoming Brexit negotiations.
Mr Fico ruled out talking to Scotland while the nation is part of the UK, joining six other European countries in taking a hardline stance with Miss Sturgeon.
Slovakia will set the EU’s agenda until the end of the year, by which time Britain is expected to have triggered Article 50 that will eventually lead to a formal exit from the EU.
Mr Fico is a Left-winger who leads his country’s first majority government for decades and was a member of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia before the country split in two.
He said: ‘I believe Brexit on its own causes multiple earthquakes around Europe. It would be a pity if it continues and leads to the break-up of other political structures.
‘We will fully respect the right of any nation, Scotland or anywhere else, to make decisions about their future. But this is a decision for the future once they have made that decision.’
Miss Sturgeon has vowed to explore all ways to keep Scotland in the EU, without necessarily leaving the UK.
But the warnings from European countries this week have raised the likelihood that breaking away from Britain following a divisive second independence referendum will be the only way that Scotland can be in the EU – and also suggest that membership would have to start from scratch. That could mean losing all of the UK’s hard-fought concessions over the euro, Europe’s no-passport zone and a budget rebate as well as joining the queue for accession.
As reported in yesterday’s Scottish Daily Mail, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said: ‘If the United Kingdom leaves… Scotland leaves.’
His concerns stem from a nationalist movement in Catalonia, but French president François Hollande – who has no such domestic worries – also insisted the EU will make no advance deal with Scotland.
The German government said Scotland’s status in the EU is an ‘internal’ British issue, Denmark said its foreign minister ‘will not intervene in the internal UK discussions’, the Czech government said it was ‘premature to address the question of an independent Scotland and its relation to the EU’ and Hungary said ‘the political unit we face and negotiate with is the United Kingdom’.
Yesterday, a former senior adviser to the European Commission said discussions on transitional arrangements for an independent Scotland to remain in the EU are taking place in Brussels.
Dr Kirsty Hughes, now an associate fellow of the Friends of Europe thinktank, told MSPs discussions are taking place about putting Scotland in a ‘transitional holding pen’ after Brexit to avoid ‘an absurd out and then in process’.
However, she warned the EU ‘does not want a mini-UK’ and said Scotland is unlikely to keep the UK’s ‘awkward squad’ opt-outs of the euro, justice and home affairs and the UK budget rebate.
Other experts told MSPs it is hard to envisage Scotland remaining in the EU while it is still part of the UK.
Drew Scott, professor of European Union studies at Edinburgh University, said: ‘The difficulties of any arrangements of the UK in its present structure with Scotland having an exceptional position are very difficult to conjure up.’
In Holyrood yesterday, Miss Sturgeon insisted she is ‘not going to meekly throw in the towel’.
She told MSPs that the Tories, who called the EU referendum, have ‘recklessly brought this country to the brink of disaster’.
She said: ‘I don’t want us to be ripped out of the European Union against our will. I am not prepared as First Minister simply to ignore how people in Scotland voted last week.’
Tory leader Ruth Davidson called on the First Minister to follow the lead of London mayor Sadiq Khan and make the need to the UK to have continued access to the single market a ‘cornerstone of negotiations’ with the EU.
Miss Davidson said the EU was ‘very important’, but added: ‘It is not as important as our own UK single market.’
Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie lambasted the Tories, adding: ‘I found it difficult to believe that Ruth Davidson showed no signs of embarrassment at all when she claimed to stand up for our place in the UK.
‘Within weeks of becoming leader of the apparently official opposition, support for independence is now at a record high. God help the Union if it carries on like that.’
Earlier this week, a poll conducted for the Mail put support for separation at 53 per cent.
‘This is a decision for the future’
Intervention: Slovakia’s Robert Fico