A representative for the European Commission in the UK said that an independent Scotland would have to “join the list” of nations seeking EU membership, even if an independence vote happens before Brexit becomes a reality. However, Jacqueline Minor, who is head of the Commission’s office in London, said Scotland could be able to fast-track the process, putting it ahead of other candidates. This position echoes that of commission officials ahead of Scotland’s narrowly failed 2014 independence referendum, when they argued that Scotland would not seamlessly be able to hold on to EU membership if they left the UK.
The comments come after 62 percent of voters in Scotland opposed Brexit in last year’s referendum. Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly brought up the possibility of another referendum on independence to secure the place of an independent Scotland in the EU, as UK plans to exit begin to materialize.
Minor pointed out that countries such as Montenegro and Serbia were already trying to join the EU.
“Were Scotland to become independent, they would join that list,” said Minor, who added that Scotland might have a clearer, faster path to membership given that it already followed EU laws and regulations.
“It would presumably not be too difficult for Scotland compared to, say, Montenegro,” she said.
Minor also added that an independent Scotland would have to commit to eventually joining the Eurozone. However, in 2014, the Scottish National Party said Scotland would continue to use the UK pound as independent country.
Sturgeon’s government has not suggested any substantive plans on how Scotland would secure EU membership or transition into the Eurozone if another independence referendum were to succeed. Sturgeon has instead called for automatic membership in the EU single market even if UK’s Brexit plans become a reality.
Minor has said that there was no precedent for such special treatment, even if the UK government supported such an approach. Since the Brexit vote last June, signs have emerged in EU member states of greater sympathy towards calls for Scottish independence. However, signs of a wave of increased support for independence, hoped for by the SNP, have not materialized in Scotland.
The 2014 independence referendum, with a turnout of roughly 85 percent, showed a Scotland that is deeply divided over the matter of independence. 55.3 percent voted to remain in the UK, while 44.7 percent voted for an independent Scotland.