An­other set­back for Stur­geon as Brus­sels pres­i­dent says no to let­ting Scots stay in

Scottish Daily Mail - - Brexit: The Fall­out - By Alan Ro­den and John Stevens in Bratislava

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

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