Guy Verhofstadt: Scotland ‘obliged to follow’ Brexit decision

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The European Parliament’s chief negotiator has said Scotland was ‘obliged to follow the decision of the majority’ on Brexit despite voting to remain in the European Union.

Guy Verhofstadt, today appearing before the House of Commons’ Brexit committee, told SNP MP Joanna Cherry that while he had sympathy with opposition in Scotland to leaving the EU, the ‘institutional structure’ of the UK meant it was obliged to go with the majority decision.

European Parliament Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

European Parliament Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

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The former Belgian Prime Minister’s comments cast doubt over previous claims from the EU that an independent Scotland could rejoin the bloc quickly, as he appeared to distance himself from his own previous comments appearing to suggest it would be easy for a newly independent Scotland to join.”

He said: “It’s obvious, everybody sees the contradiction but because of the institutional structure of your country, you are obliged to go with the decision of the majority.

“We have to recognise that for a number of people are bound by a decision they didn’t vote for, that’s the consequence for the region or nation.”

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In response to Ms Cherry’s questions, Mr Verhofstadt said: “We will not, as I have said from day one, interfere in the institutional debate in Britain, that’s not our job, that’s your job.”

Reminded by Ms Cherry about comments attributed to him where he said there was ‘no great obstacle’ to an independent Scotland joining the EU, Mr Verhofstadt replied: “I said that? I don’t remember a tweet about it.”

“In any way, I repeat what I said: I will never ask a negotiator or coordinator for the European Parliament to intervene in the institutional set up of any of the countries involved in this.”

Tory MP Paul Masterton said: “The SNP yet again claim to be speaking for Scotland; they do not. Just a reminder, more people in Scotland voted to leave the EU than for them in last year’s general election.

“I’m not surprised Ms Cherry obsessed over independence in her questioning. The EU have always said that an independent Scotland would not be fast tracked to membership and will be treated like every other country wishing to be a member.

“They need to get over their obsession and start working together with the UK Government to ensure the best Brexit deal for Scotland.”

Joanna Cherry said: “It’s vital that Scotland maintains its place in the Single Market and Customs Union – to protect our economy, jobs and living standards.

“These comments from European Parliament’s chief negotiator signal that any failure to bring forward proposals for sensible compromise are squarely the fault of the Tories.”