Scottish independence: Independent Scotland in EU would face 'issues' with UK cross-border trade, minister admits

Constitution secretary Angus Robertson is set to unveil the latest independence prospectus paper on Friday

Scotland would have to overcome “issues” around cross-border trade with the rest of the United Kingdom if it joins the European Union when it becomes independent, ministers have admitted.

Constitution and external affairs secretary Angus Robertson said the details of how these would be tackled would be set out in a new independence prospectus paper due to be published tomorrow.

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Writing exclusively in The Scotsman, he admitted re-joining the EU would provide a boost for Scotland’s economic growth, but would create “issues to work through” with cross-border trade within the British Isles.

Minister for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Angus Robertson in the main chamber at the Scottish ParliamentMinister for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Angus Robertson in the main chamber at the Scottish Parliament
Minister for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Angus Robertson in the main chamber at the Scottish Parliament

The paper will set out the future trading relationship between Scotland and the UK post-independence, alongside the benefits of re-joining the EU. However, it is not clear whether it will include a timetable for re-joining the economic and political union.

Ministers were forced to admit it could take as long as eight years to join the EU, following a transparency defeat for the government.

The pre-Brexit advice, never seen by ministers or approved, covered “post-Brexit routes to membership of the EU” and said the best-case scenario would see Scotland take three to four years to re-join. However, the worst case could be eight years, due to Scotland acceding to the EU from third country status.

Following the publication of the document, officials said it would be “inaccurate to suggest that any of the details within reflect past or present government policy” and pledged the paper due to be released on Friday would set out the route for Scotland re-joining the EU.

The new paper will outline how being part of the EU would provide opportunities for economic growth in Scotland. This includes through reduced barriers for trade and less bureaucracy, almost a mirror image argument used by Vote Leave during the Brexit referendum.

He will also point to the benefits of a larger labour market without restrictions on EU citizens working in Scotland. Other aspects of EU membership to be underlined will include access to free trade agreements, better food and drink standards, and easier research collaboration.

Writing in The Scotsman, the senior SNP figure said: “Put simply, re-joining the EU would provide opportunities for our economy to grow. It would mean quicker and cheaper trading, with no tariffs or duties for goods, and significantly lower levels of non-tariff barriers in comparison to the current EU trade deal negotiated by the UK Government.

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"Of course there will be issues to work through in relation to trading with the rest of the UK, which will remain our closest friend and partner. And we will set out on Friday how these can be managed.

“But there is a fundamental question to be asked here – independent EU member states that are like Scotland are both wealthier and fairer than the UK. They have higher productivity and lower inequality. So with all our resources and talents, why not Scotland?”

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie said the SNP’s commitment to Europe was “utterly superficial”, demonstrated by their lack of financial backing for their EU referendum campaign.

"If the SNP thought being anti-EU would win more votes for independence, they would switch position without a second thought,” he said. “Liberal Democrats are the most pro-European party. We’ve already shown that in Wales by setting in motion a £65 million Erasmus replacement that has lined up 6,000 exchange opportunities. By contrast, the SNP haven't delivered a single spot for Scottish students to learn and study abroad.

"These papers consistently make wild promises about borders, banks and joining the EU, which are completely disconnected from reality. No pro-European should be conned by the SNP's wild claims. Scotland should learn the lessons of Brexit, not repeat them with separation.”



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