In Depth

Scotland rejoining EU: what would it take?

Nicola Sturgeon says independence offers country’s only route back into the bloc in wake of Brexit

Former European Council president Donald Tusk has said that he believes the EU would be “enthusiastic” about the prospect of Scotland rejoining the EU as an independent nation.

In a significant boost to the Scottish National Party’s campaign for a second independence referendum, Tusk told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show that there was widespread “empathy” with the desire of many Scots to rejoin the bloc following Brexit.

On Friday, in a speech marking Britain’s formal departure from the EU, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon told supporters in Edinburgh that independence was now Scotland’s only route back in.

How could it work?

If Scotland were to become a member of the EU while England remained outside the bloc, an EU land border would be created between the two countries. This would probably lead to negotiating difficulties similar to those posed by the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, with potential disruption in the trade of goods and services as Scotland becomes a member of the single market.

Scotland would also have to go through the formal accession process and apply to the EU like any other country, including proving that it had the required “democratic, regulatory and institutional structures” in place as an independent country, according to Glasgow-based newspaper The National.

Is it likely?

Although Scotland appears unlikely to face much opposition to EU membership from the 27 member states, the British government is fiercely opposed to the independence campaign, as the Financial Times notes. Boris Johnson has repeatedly ruled out granting the necessary permission for a repeat of the 2014 independence referendum.

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In that vote, Scotland chose not to break off from the rest of the UK, by 55% to 45%. However, support for independence has swelled since the 2016 EU referedum, in which the Scots voted by 62% to 38% in favour of Remain.

A YouGov poll last week found that 51% of Scots are now for independence and 49% against (with those who said they don’t know discounted).

All the same, most senior SNP politicians “would rather see support running at closer to 60% before they enter a referendum campaign”, says the BBC.

But The Independent reports that party leader Sturgeon has not ruled out holding a “consultative” (legally non-binding) referendum in lieu of authorisation from Westminster in order to establish the state of opinion in Scotland.

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