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Independence: Juncker ‘sympathetic’ to Scots EU bid

Jean-Claude Juncker, the EC president-elect, announced a five-year moratorium on enlarging the 28-member EU.  Picture: AP

Jean-Claude Juncker, the EC president-elect, announced a five-year moratorium on enlarging the 28-member EU. Picture: AP

  • by ANDREW WHITAKER
 

SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE: New European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker is “sympathetic” to an independent Scotland joining the EU due to his experience as a politician from a small member state, it emerged last night.

The revelation came after No campaign leaders claimed remarks by Juncker that the 28-member-EU needed “a break from enlargement” showed that Scotland would be kept out in the event of a Yes vote.

However, Scotland on Sunday has learned that the hierarchy in Brussels would be unlikely to exclude an independent Scotland from the EU as it is already signed-up to “core EU requirements” for candidate member states on gender equality and workers’ rights.

An independent Scotland’s potential membership would be treated as a “special and separate case” to nations wanting to join from regions such as the Balkans that have yet to satisfy all the rules, a senior EU source stated.

The source directly contradicted claims from the No campaign, which seized on a speech by the EC president-elect last week to claim that he had banned an independent Scotland from joining the EU until 2019, after he told the European Parliament “no further enlargement will take place over the next five years.”

Juncker’s EU spokeswoman had said the new EC president – a former prime minister of Luxembourg – was not referring to Scotland.

However, a high-ranking EU official last night stated Junker “would not want Scotland to be kept out”. The source said: “He’d be sympathetic as someone who is from a smaller country as he’ll understand the obstacles that can be put in the way of less powerful member states.”

Candidate countries for EU accession currently include the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey, who have yet to demonstrate they fulfil key membership requirements.

However, Scotland would be “exempt” from the process as it is already a signatory to core requirements for nation states in areas as such employment rights and equality legislation because of its 40-year membership of the EU as part of the UK. European Union chiefs are also thought to be angered by the prospect of the UK voting on an EU exit in the referendum planned by David Cameron and view Scotland’s desire to be a member favourably, an EU source confirmed.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman last night re-stated Alex Salmond’s claim an independent Scotland would automatically inherit EU membership because of its status as part of the UK and would be fully admitted within 18 months.

She said: “Scotland is already part of the EU and as such already meets all the requirements for membership.

“The specific terms of continued membership as an independent country will be negotiated in the 18-month transition timetable we have indicated.”

However, the EU leadership is understood to view the SNP timetable of being an independent nation in the EU within 18 months as “unrealistic”, but believes Scotland could be a full member early within the first parliament after a Yes vote.

The position was backed by a leading authority on European politics, who said that Scotland would have to be treated as a special case.

Prof Michael Keating, an EU expert and chair in politics at Aberdeen university, said: “It would be much more complex for the EU and other member states if Scotland had to leave and be disentangled from something it has been in for 40 years. They wouldn’t want to disrupt the single market in this way.”

A UK Government spokesman said: “The truth is it is unlikely Mr Juncker or anyone else round the negotiating table would give Scotland special treatment at the expense of their own countries.”

A Better Together spokesman said: “President Juncker has made it perfectly clear that he agrees with his predecessor José Manuel Barroso and European Council president Herman Van Rompuy that if we vote to leave the UK we need to reapply to the join the EU.”

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