Plans for Scotland to join the European Economic Area (EEA) in a bid to maintain links with the European Union were dealt a fresh blow yesterday.
An EU source revealed that membership was only open to states - and Scotland is not considered a state.
The source, speaking to a national newspaper, also suggested that talks over Scotland’s potential membership of the EEA could not take place while Brexit discussions were ongoing.
A plan that would see Scotland emulate Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein by joining the EEA was put forward as a possible solution for the country to hold onto its ties with the EU in the wake of the UK voting Leave.
But the EU source added: “The EU position is clear. There will be no negotiations before the UK notification. The withdrawal negotiations under Article 50 will be conducted with the withdrawing member state [i.e. the UK].
“The treaty specifically refers to a ‘state’ applying [for EEA membership]. Scotland is not a state. The EU only deals with states.”
Nicola Sturgeon confirmed late last week that the Scottish Government was considering a Norway-style model to keep Scotland in the EU single market.
The First Minister told MSPs that the EEA model as well as the European Free Trade Association were being looked at as the government explored ways of preserving Scotland’s links with the EU.
The Scottish government is set to publish plans focused on protecting Scotland’s place in Europe by the end of the year.
Last week it was reported that Scotland would need agreement from the EU, the UK and the EEA if the plan was to go ahead.