EUROTRASHED: Sturgeon's independence dream in TATTERS as Brussels says 'join the queue'

NICOLA Sturgeon's case for another independence referendum lay in tatters today after a leading Eurocrat said a break away Scotland would have to join the queue for bloc membership.

Nicola Sturgeon's case for another independence referendum was crushed as Brussels said 'join the qu

The First Minister has repeatedly threatened another divisive poll to protect as many as possible "benefits" of being in the international club following last June's Brexit vote.

Ms Sturgeon has also signalled she is ready to launch a new bid to break up Britain in "the next few weeks" if Theresa May does not back her plan for a bespoke deal to remain in the single market.

Throughout the 2014 independence campaign the SNP claimed a separate Scotland could automatically remain within the EU, but senior official Jacqueline Minor has directly contradicted that.

Ms Minor said it would have to apply from scratch and follow the usual accession process joining a list of candidate countries including Montenegro, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The head of representation for the European Commission in the UK said Scotland would have to commit to joining the euro and tackle its £15 billion deficit to meet membership rules.

And she also poured cold water on Ms Sturgeon's plan for a Norway-style deal warning there was "no precedent" for differentiated arrangements between parts of a partner country.

Opposition politicians seized on the remarks challenging the SNP to be "honest" with voters over its plans for separation.

Scottish Tory constitution spokesman Adam Tomkins said: "For all its moaning about Brexit, it knows fine well an independent Scotland would not simply step into the European Union.

"Not only would it join the back of the queue, but we now learn it may have to adopt the euro and tackle an eye-watering deficit.

"It's time for the Nationalists to be honest about Brexit and stop using it as a tool to agitate for separation."

Scottish Labour's Europe spokesman Lewis Macdonald said: "As the SNP was repeatedly told during the (2014 independence) referendum campaign, an independent Scotland would have to apply to join the EU like any other country.

"Alex Salmond tried to dismiss this, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Now it's time for the SNP to be honest with voters - an independent Scotland would have to join the queue."

Earlier, Ms Minor suggested an independent Scotland would have to wait several years to apply with Commission President Jean Claude Juncker ruling out any further enlargement while he is in office until 2020.

Referring to those currently seeking membership she added: "Were Scotland to become independent, they would join that list."

Speaking at a Scottish Parliamentary Journalists' Association event in Edinburgh, she said Scotland might be able to "move faster" by meeting criteria on democracy and rule of law however it would have to go through "through the normal process of application".

Ms Minor also stressed "all member countries are committed to eventual membership of the euro" though "there would possibly be quite a lengthy period of transition to that status".

Official figures show Scotland's deficit is the highest in the EU at 9.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), behind Greece on 7.2 per cent and Spain on 5.1 per cent.

The EU considers anything above 3 per cent of GDP to be "excessive" and can impose financial penalties on and/ or withhold payments to member states which exceed that figure. Ms Minor said "that would be one of the issues Scotland would have to address"

"It would have to come forward with plans as to how it is going to reduce its deficit," she added.

Asked about the prospects of a special deal for Scotland in Brexit negotiations she replied: "I have to say that there is no precedent whereby a free trade agreement has distinguished between significant regions of the partner country."

But an SNP spokesman hit out at rivals for using "a remarkably selective account" of her speech.

He added: “We are focussed on protecting Scotland from the catastrophic effects of a hard Tory Brexit which would cost 80,000 jobs in Scotland over the next decade – meanwhile Labour failed to secure a single concession from the Tories on the Article 50 Bill, yet they voted for it anyway.

"At every level, Labour’s response to the EU referendum has been pathetic.”

By TOM MARTIN for Daily Express
PUBLISHED: 00:01, Fri, Feb 10, 2017


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