Thanks to Brexit, Scotland now faces a far starker choice than it did in 2014by Kirsty Hughes / October 14, 2019 / Leave a comment
Brexit stumbles on towards its Halloween deadline mired, as ever, in uncertainty. But Brexit has certainly already weakened the Union: on Sunday, just ahead of the SNP’s annual conference, Nicola Sturgeon said she would ask for a second Scottish independence referendum “within weeks.”
Recent polls suggest an increase in support for independence to about 50 per cent, mainly driven by some Remain voters shifting towards it. If Brexit actually happens—with or without a deal—that will give a further boost to the independence cause as the consequences become real.
But if Scotland votes in the next couple of years for independence, as the UK embarks on Brexit, will it easily re-join the EU—and how might that impact on its own divorce from the UK?
Scotland currently meets most EU criteria for membership, not least already complying with EU laws and regulations—albeit being part of the UK’s opt-outs from the euro, Schengen and some legislation in the area of justice and home affairs. Even in a messy no-deal Brexit, the chances are Scotland would not have diverged much from EU laws if it was looking to begin accession talks say in around 2023—though it would be unlikely to get a new euro opt-out.
Having a goal of joining the euro would be controversial. But the likely size of an independent Scotland’s budget would preclude it from joining the single currency for several years anyway. Less debated is the tricky fact that if Scotland did stick with the pound for several years after independence (as is SNP policy) it might not meet accession criteria on monetary policy—promoting price stability and treating its exchange rate with member states as a matter of common concern.
During the first independence referendum in 2014, Commission president Barroso went out of his way to say re-joining the EU would be tricky and lengthy. The mood music is now very different. The main message from EU capitals is that, if a Scottish independence referendum is legally and constitutionally valid (a crucial condition—pace Catalonia), then Scotland is set fair for a fairly swift, if standard, accession process.
Twenty five years ago, the then European Free Trade Association states of Finland, Sweden and Austria negotiated EU accession within two years. Scotland might be pushed to do the same, but…