Discussions on transitional arrangements for an independent Scotland to remain in the EU after the UK leaves are taking place in Brussels, according to a former senior adviser to the European Commission.
Dr Kirsty Hughes told members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) that discussions are taking place about putting Scotland in a “transitional holding pen” after Brexit to avoid “an absurd out and then in process”.
She urged MSPs to hold a second independence referendum by summer 2017 at the latest, if it is judged to be in the best interests of Scotland, to allow the EU to start work on these transitional arrangements.
She said the EU “does not want a mini-UK” and said Scotland is unlikely to keep the UK’s “awkward squad” opt-outs of the euro, justice, and home affairs, and the UK budget rebate.
Holyrood’s European and external relations committee heard from a range of experts on Scotland’s position following the UK vote to leave the EU last week.
Experts agreed it is extremely difficult to envisage a situation where Scotland remains both in the EU and the UK, suggesting independence is the most likely route for Scotland to remain in the EU.
Dr Hughes, now an associate fellow of the Friends of Europe think tank, told MSPs there is a “timing issue”.
“If Scotland waits until nearly the end of the two years to say, ‘This isn’t OK and now we’re having an independence referendum’, you might not have had that and had time to have the negotiations with the rest of the UK on dissolving the union before the whole of the UK has left.
“So, it’s obviously a very big political judgement about whether and when to call an independence referendum.”
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