Could independent Scotland join EU? How Indyref2 could spark chaos

Nicola Sturgeon pushes independence again at COP 26

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An integral part of the First Minister’s plans is to take Scotland back in to the EU, despite UK Government’s consistently ruling out another referendum, following the decision to stay in the UK made by the Scottish public in 2014. But despite this, Ms Sturgeon’s SNP is still preparing plans for another vote – with it being considered more a case of when, not if.

Why does the SNP want to rejoin the EU?

According to the SNP website: “The SNP believes that EU membership delivers many social, economic and cultural benefits for individuals, businesses and communities across Scotland.

“We believe that the best way to build a more prosperous and equal Scotland is to be a full independent member of the EU.”

Scotland voted on a national level to retain membership of the EU – by a wide margin of 62 percent to remain to 38 percent to leave.

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The SNP has made it clear that in the event of a new referendum that signals Scotland’s wish to exit to the EU, it would “prepare to rejoin the EU”.

On the eve the UK left the bloc, Ms Sturgeon tweeted: “Scotland will be back soon, Europe – keep the light on.”

However, the First Minister is yet to publicly deliver a pathway to rejoining the EU – but it’s something Ms Sturgeon would immediately outline in the event of a referendum being approved.

Kirsty Hughes, director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations, commented that a return to the EU wouldn’t be too difficult for Scotland to achieve.

She said: “If there is a yes vote in a referendum, then I think if it’s in the next five years, Scotland is going to still be very close to EU laws and legislation that’s got almost half a century experience being within the European Union.

“So I think there is a fairly clear path to accession.

However, she added: “An independent Scotland is going to have to realise though that there’s a process to go through, criteria to meet.

”There’s no sort of nice wishful thinking and the wave of a wand and you’re just back in because you were in once before.”

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Getting into the EU is easier said than done – it requires four steps: application, candidate status, negotiations and, finally, accession.

Any country joining must be approved unanimously by EU leaders, the European Parliament and national parliaments of member states.

The whole process, if it were to go ahead, will take a number of years, with the time it took for various current members to reach accession varying.

For example, it only took two years for Austria, Finland and Sweden to join, whereas it took Croatia just shy of eight years to join the bloc.

On average, the process takes five years – and the ease depends on how well an applicant country aligns with EU values and laws.

Scotland would also have to establish various new institutions that EU membership requires.

Ms Hughes outlines that Scotland may have some issues with this: “If it’s applying to join the EU, is going to be a new state, [and] it hasn’t been a state for the past 300 years.

“So it will have a lot of different institutions and regulatory bodies, laws to set up things that were previously done from London or at a UK level.

“So, although in one way it looks fairly simple for Scotland to meet the so-called Copenhagen criteria, to show that it’s a properly functioning democracy, to show that it’s a market economy.”

And after all that, it’s unlikely Scotland would be able to join the EU until it has completed its exit from UK – a process no one knows the length of, as it’s never happened in the modern history of the UK.

Aside from Scotland, there are currently six countries in the process of joining the EU: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey.

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