Scotland insists it wants to remain in single market

The Scottish government says there is "no reason" why Scotland should not keep free movement of EU citizens even if the rest of the UK puts new immigration controls in place after Brexit.

Nicola Sturgeon | Photo credit: David Anderson

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

20 Dec 2016

This was one of the key messages at the launch on Tuesday of a Scottish government paper setting out its approach to Brexit.

Stephen Gethins, the SNP's Europe spokesperson, said, "We want to remain in the single market, something similar to what Norway does and allow us to trade freely with our partners.

"Freedom of movement is good for the economy - EU nationals contribute so much to our universities, businesses and our society. It also benefits the millions of UK nationals living and working in Europe."


Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, formally launched the paper, titled, 'Scotland's Place in Europe', in Edinburgh.

She proposes that Scotland should remain in the single market even if the rest of the UK leaves, which she says would require a "substantial transfer of new powers to Holyrood". 

In June's EU referendum, 62 per cent of voters in Scotland backed remain, with 38 per cent for leave.

Sturgeon set up a "standing council" of experts on Europe in the immediate aftermath of the vote, saying she wanted to examine all options open to her government - including the possibility of a second independence referendum.

The Scottish government proposals have now been published in full in the policy paper.

Sturgeon, speaking at a news conference, said the referendum result had been a vote on leaving the EU rather than a vote to leave the single market, and argued it would therefore be democratically justifiable for the whole of the UK to remain in the single market.

Sturgeon said, "I accept that there is a mandate in England and Wales to take the UK out of the EU. However, I do not accept that there is a mandate to take any part of the UK out of the single market.

"It would make no economic sense whatsoever for the UK to leave the single market. It would be entirely democratically justifiable for the UK to remain within it."

The First Minister said she accepted that it currently seemed likely that the UK as a whole would leave the single market "given the rhetoric of the Conservatives".

So she said the "second strand" of the paper proposes ways in which Scotland could stay in the single market - through the European free trade association (EFTA) and the European economic area (EEA) - even if the rest of the UK chooses to leave.

On Monday, UK Prime Minister Theresa May promised to listen carefully to Sturgeon's proposals for Brexit.

But the UK government has also warned that a special deal for Scotland is unrealistic.

Meanwhile, in a reference to last Thursday's European Council summit in Brussels, May said, "I made it clear to the other EU leaders that it remains my objective to give reassurance early on in the negotiations to EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in EU countries that their right to stay where they have made their homes will be protected by our withdrawal."

She also refused to rule out Chancellor Philip Hammond's calls last week for a transitional period to manage the adjustment.


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