Politics

Nicola Sturgeon’s indyref2 dreams shattered as EU to ‘prioritise’ relations with London

Nicola Sturgeon should 'build' on relationship with London

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Nicola Sturgeon has restated her desire for an independence vote to take place before the end of 2023 “Covid permitting” – despite Boris Johnson having made clear his opposition to such a ballot. The SNP leader confirmed “preparatory work is underway” to enable a second referendum to be held – a commitment both the SNP and their Scottish Green Party partners in Government made in their manifestos for last year’s Holyrood elections. But political scientist Anand Menon explained depending on the mood at the time, the European Union could prioritise a relationship with London over Scotland.

Speaking to the UK in a Changing Europe’s seminar on Independence in the EU and Scotland’s borders, Mr Menon said: “On the one hand, the more you have a British Government that is shouting about Brexit and causing trouble with the EU, the more it might be easy for Nicola Sturgeon to make the case for Scottish independence.

“On the other hand, the smoother relations are between the British Government and the EU and the more the British Government does to facilitate cross-border movement, the easier it is practically for a post-independent Scotland to think about that border.

“Obviously the state of our political relationship with the EU might bear on the referendum itself.

“If it’s a situation of all-out daggers drawn between London and the EU at the time of the Scottish independence referendum, there will be more loose talk on the EU side about how good it would be to welcome Scotland, that we can’t blame for wanting to leave.

“If we’re in a state where relations are getting much better and both sides see it as in their advantage to keep those relationships better, I suspect we’ll see less of that talk.

“It would be very interesting under a Labour Government to see what the EU is willing to say about a Scottish referendum I think because their priority might be building a relationship with London rather than undermining them.”

It comes as the challenges posed by the English border if an independent Scotland joins the EU should not be downplayed, academics have said.

The UK in a Changing Europe think tank has published an extensive paper examining the issue of borders after Scottish independence.

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It says some of the cross-border arrangements envisaged in the 2014 referendum will not be possible due to Brexit, as a new land border between the EU and the rest of the UK would be created.

Authors said any future prospectus for independence must confront the challenges of Brexit in order to ensure an informed debate.

The report was written by Professor Nicola McEwen of Edinburgh University and Professor Katy Hayward of Queen’s University Belfast.

While Scotland would likely remain in the Common Travel Area, they said a deal similar to the Northern Ireland Protocol would be unlikely.

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Prof McEwen said the report makes a number of assumptions – that Scotland holds an independence referendum, votes Yes, and negotiates to leave the UK and join the EU.

The report says the main trunk roads between England and Scotland would need some form of border control and inspection facilities, likely with “red” or “green” lanes for vehicles with goods to declare or not.

While Scottish goods would be opened up to the EU single market, trade with the continent would not be entirely “frictionless” due to goods having to travel through England.

During an online panel discussion of the report on Thursday, Prof McEwen said people living in Scotland’s southern communities would need to be offered reassurance and support on the implications of the new international border.

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