‘Scotland’s Brexit Choices’ – New Policy Paper by SCER

17 April 2017

The Scottish Centre on European Relations today issues a new policy paper, ‘Scotland’s Brexit Choices’, by its Director, Dr Kirsty Hughes. Commenting on the paper, she said:

“If there were a second independence referendum in March 2019, Scottish voters would know a lot more than now about the outcome of the Brexit talks, and about whether an independent Scotland would definitely aim to re-join the EU. It will not be a moment for fudging that choice.”

The paper argues that:

  • Voters would know, in March 2019, if there was a UK-EU27 deal on Brexit or not. In the case of no deal, with the UK heading for the ‘WTO cliff’, there would be a major UK economic and political crisis. Some would argue that a second independence referendum should be postponed while the crisis was resolved. The pro-independence side would be likely to argue the crisis made continuing with the referendum even more vital.
  • Voters would know if Nicola Sturgeon, and the SNP, were proposing a rapid route into the EU for Scotland, if there was a ‘yes’ vote to independence, or instead membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) – either permanently or as a transition.
  • But if Nicola Sturgeon proposes a transition route to the EU via the EEA (Norway model), the European Commission might disagree – suggesting instead a bespoke association agreement (as is normal in recent accessions to the EU). The EEA route will imply Scotland on the sidelines of European politics – and needing to establish many more regulatory structures and agencies than if it re-joined the EU.
  • If the choice for voters is between staying in the UK in the context of a UK-EU27 trade/Brexit deal and Scotland being independent in the EEA, the debate could become a highly detailed one over the impact of these different sets of trade arrangements.
  • In contrast, a choice between the UK-EU27 trade and security deal and independence in the EU would mean potentially a bigger set of political, foreign policy and economic arguments about the future UK-EU27 relationship and the future potential Scotland-rUK relationship.

Overall, Scotland will be debating, and deciding, how it wants to relate to the EU and the wider world – from inside or outside the EU, independent or not.

Contact: Kirsty Hughes can be contacted by email

The Scottish Centre on European Relations is an independent and unaligned EU think tank, based in Edinburgh.