Reaction to the publication of ‘Scotland’s place in Europe’

My initial thoughts on some of the key elements of the Scottish Government's position paper.


Statement from Ian Duncan MEP

in response to the Scottish Government’s publication of ‘Scotland’s place in Europe’

The best deal for Scotland is the best deal for the United Kingdom as a whole. The Scottish Government sets out the challenges facing Scotland in pursuing a separate deal with the EU without offering workable solutions.

I set out below my initial thoughts on some of the key elements of the Scottish Government’s position paper. In due course I will provide a more detailed analysis.

Trade Deals (Para 25)

With Scotland in the Customs Union/European Economic Area and the rest of the UK outwith, there would inevitably be a growth in non-tariff barriers as the regulatory regimes north and south of the border evolve and diverge. South of the border, the rest of the UK would be free to determine the rules that best serve its needs whilst north of the border Scotland would be bound in to existing rules without any means to influence their development.

The UK would be free to secure free trade agreements (FTAs) with nations outside the EU. Scotland would be bound by its membership of the EU/EEA, with any trade deals necessarily negotiated by the European Commission (as the only body competent to negotiate such deals), again without the involvement of Scotland in any of the fashion.

Eventually as the regulatory regimes diverge north and south of the border, checks would be necessary where the rest of the UK and the EU meet, i.e. the Scottish border.

Border issues (Para 119)

Under the Scottish Government’s plans, the EU would have no way of checking that the rest of the UK was not trading with the single market via the back door’ - e.g. via Scotland as a Single Market member. This is particularly challenging where component parts of a product have been sourced across the UK. Asking the EU to accept an open unchecked land border with a nation which has just exited the EU is a remarkable ask.

Faroe Islands (Para 136)

Only a state may seek membership of the EEA. Whilst the issue of the Faroe seeking membership is interesting, it is important to note that the Faroe Islands are part of the Danish Realm, and Denmark is a full member of the European Union and the Single Market. There is no precedent for a state outwith the EEA, in the case the United Kingdom, to ‘sponsor’ associate membership on behalf of a part of its territory.

It is also worth noting that with a population of less than 50,000, no land border with any other state, and a relatively simple economy, The Faroe Islands are quite different from Scotland.

Migration (Para 163)

The operation of differentiated migration systems for sovereign states - the examples of Canada and Australia are cited - are means by which individual provinces can attract migrants. They do so under a cap established at state (or federal) level. It is unclear how an open border system in Scotland (to allow for the EU’s freedom of movement of workers) could be accommodated under such a system, since by its nature it must operate without any such cap. It would also by necessity mean that EU migrants entering Scotland would not enjoy freedom of movement within the UK. How this could be enforced is not explored.

The vote to leave the European Union will have surprised many, and there are challenging times ahead.  However, the most important aspect of our negotiations with the EU is for each of the home nations to pull together, find common ground and work for a common goal. Only the United Kingdom can negotiate such a deal. Internal fragmentation within the UK only serves to strengthen the EU’s negotiating position.

It was disheartening to see little in the Scottish Government’s paper on how it intends to work closely with the UK on areas of mutual interest. I do hope Ms. Sturgeon will work with London, Cardiff and Belfast to secure the strongest negotiating position and to help deliver the best possible deal for Scotland in the UK as we exit the EU.