EU membership for independent Scotland could take 8 years, secret civil service advice shows

The information was disclosed following a successful appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner by a member of the public.

An independent Scotland could take as long as eight years to rejoin the EU following Scottish independence, an official Scottish Government report found.

The undated but pre-Brexit report, released following a successful appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner who ruled the information was wrongly withheld from the public, covered “post-Brexit routes to membership of the EU”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Rejoining the EU following Brexit has been at the heart of the SNP’s independence campaigning and remains a central part of their opposition to both a Labour and a Conservative UK Government.

Rejoining the EU has been central to the SNP's independence campaignRejoining the EU has been central to the SNP's independence campaign
Rejoining the EU has been central to the SNP's independence campaign

While the report releases previously unseen advice, the Scottish Government said the report was never seen by ministers and never approved.

Officials said it would be “inaccurate to suggest that any of the details within reflect past or present government policy”, adding that a new paper would be published by ministers shortly setting out the approved route to rejoining the EU for an independent Scotland.

The report outlines both the duration and scale of the effort required for an independent Scotland to rejoin the EU, stating that any success would ultimately be up to “political will”.

It states that the “best case scenario for Scotland would involve a total timeline 3-4 years and the upper limit could be up to 8 years, based on Scotland acceding to the EU from third country status.”

However, it adds that Scotland would be in a “unique position” having previously been in the EU prior to Brexit.

It warns: “It is not clear whether the EU would be willing and able to negotiate with a Scotland in the process of transitioning to independence.”

The paper also warns that it could take an independent Scotland “some time” to compile enough evidence to satisfy the EU.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It advises: “Although there should be no reason why an independent Scotland could not ultimately meet these criteria, it may take some time to do so before sufficient evidence is available to support the application, and there may need to be temporary derogations (exemptions from obligations) in certain chapters of the acquis (e.g. the euro).

“The speed of the negotiation and ratification process is contingent on political will, the agreed final Brexit position agreed for the UK, the nature of Scotland’s exit negotiations from the UK, and any competing priorities the EU may have at that time.”

On the euro, the report states: “New Member States are committed to be able to adopt the euro in due course after membership.”

The report also details what an independent Scotland would require to meet the criteria to be considered for EU membership.

This included the creation of several administrative and public bodies to replace UK Government departments such as the the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, new banking regulators, a new Companies House, a fair trading standards body, and financial crime bodies.

A new version of Ofcom, the broadcaster regulator, and Ofgem, the energy regulator for Scotland would also be required, the report states.

The paper also considers different routes for re-joining the EU, including the potential move to EFTA prior to a full application to the EU.

In a note published alongside the information, the Scottish Government said: “Following the Scottish Information Commissioner’s decision about the applicability of exemptions in this case, and about the scope of the request, the Scottish Government is now publishing this information in full.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"However, it should be noted that much of this information, some of which was written several years ago, was never seen by Ministers and does not reflect current government thinking.

"The policy proposals in these documents were never approved by Ministers and it would therefore be inaccurate to suggest that any of the details within reflect past or present government policy.”

The government added: “To give people the information they need to make an informed choice about Scotland's constitutional future, Ministers will shortly publish a paper setting out how an independent Scotland would re-join the EU, in order to escape the damage of Brexit and enjoy the benefits of being back in the EU as a full, equal member.

"The proposals in this paper will be open to public and expert scrutiny, following a rigorous internal civil service quality assurance process, and formal approval by Ministers.”



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.