The time it takes for an independent Scotland to negotiate the return to the EU will be dictated by how far the United Kingdom deviates from post-Brexit European regulations, officials in Brussels said.
The SNP has repeatedly insisted that it would try to reverse the 2016 referendum decision if the majority of Scots were to support the separation from the UK at a future date.
But taking a road to EU membership could take years of complex negotiations for new Scottish states, with doubts expressed in the EU capital this week about the likelihood of an accelerated process.
“It depends on a number of things: it will depend on when this happens and it will depend, I expect, on the extent to which there would have been divergence between now and then,” said a senior EU official.
“Ultimately every aspiring member state must respect the EU acquis.
“And the question is how far Scotland would diverge. It is a completely hypothetical situation. “
The term acquis refers to the body of common rights and obligations which are binding on all EU countries. It is constantly evolving, but generally includes the content, principles and political objectives of the EU treaties.
Chancellor Sajid Javid tried to reassure business yesterday that there would be no UK wholesale dumping of EU regulations and promised there would be no differences after Brexit for the sake of doing so.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Javid addressed the question of whether the UK would remain in line with the EU regulation – seen as a crucial problem by UK manufacturing companies. “We are leaving the European Union, the single market and the customs union. And we’re doing it so we can have control of our rules and laws, “he said.
Boris Johnson said Wednesday that the UK “crossed the Brexit milestone” after the British parliament passed the law to implement the withdrawal agreement, which received real consensus yesterday.
As a constituent part of the United Kingdom, any changes to the rules could affect Scotland in the future if it takes a Yes vote on a possible Indyref2.
The EU official continued: “It is assumed that even if the UK diverges, it will not be dramatic, so realignment or reopening may not be particularly difficult. That being the case, presumably it would not take as long as Macedonia or Albania – who have a huge journey to travel to meet each other [admissions criteria].
“It is assumed that it could be done relatively quickly. But Johnson said there will be no referendum on the life of this government. “
Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell said: “Scotland has been within the European Union for over 45 years and by definition it is currently fully aligned with all EU rules.
“The prosecution by the British government of a harmful Brexit outside the single market and the customs union reinforces the right of people in Scotland to choose a better future as an independent country and that this decision is taken later this year .
“Scotland would be in a unique position, having already been within the EU. Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, author of article 50 and former UK ambassador to the EU, said joining an independent Scotland to the EU could be “very fast”. “
Russell spoke after MSPs said yesterday that the EU would not support an independent Scotland unless separation from the rest of the UK was legal and officially recognized by London.
The Holyrood European Committee was told that although within the EU there was “goodwill” towards Scotland, if it were to become independent, it would have to do so “in cooperation with Westminster” to be legally recognized.
The MSPs were gathering evidence on the EU withdrawal project from experts, including former British diplomat Dame Mariot Leslie, professor of politics and foreign affairs at Kings College, Anand Menon and dr. Fabian Zuleeg, CEO of the European Political Center.
Questioned by SNP MSP Kenny Gibson on how Scotland “was perceived by other European nations and currently by the EU” and how this could change if it became independent, the committee was told that while the EU had “sympathies” with the Scotland would take its lead from London – and MSPs have been warned not to expect from the same “flexibility” as the EU that has been demonstrated in Northern Ireland.
Dame Mariot, who also sits on the Permanent Council of Prime Ministers on Europe, said: “The reality is that no other country would recognize an independent Scotland until London recognized it – so there would be a swift line of European Union countries, and non-EU countries that would. “