European Union leaders could be “very reluctant” to allow the UK to rejoin their group, but could welcome an independent Scotland into the trading block, an expert has claimed.
Kirsty Hughes, who was the director of the Scottish Centre on Europe Relations (SCER), said the issue of an independent Scotland joining the EU was a completely different question to whether the UK could ever be allowed back in.
If Scots voted for independence in a legally binding referendum, she forecast there would be “complete openness” from the 27 EU nations to allowing entry.
Speaking at a webinar organised by the European Movement in Scotland, she said: “On the Scottish side I think there is complete openness if Scotland was to vote Yes in a constitutionally and legally valid referendum.
“There is complete openness to welcoming another small, northern European country into the European Union.”
She said this would not be the case if “there is a big stand-off over a referendum between London and Edinburgh”.
But she added that not only was Scotland seen as pro-European, given the vote to remain in the EU in 2016, she said that its “politics looks more normal at the moment”.
The expert added: “Frankly any big country applying to join the EU, whether it is Turkey or Ukraine or the UK, is always much more problematic usually than a smaller country.”
Speaking about the UK’s prospects for rejoining, she noted that politicians in Europe had been left feeling “disappointed, upset, angry and many other things at the Brexit vote”.
She continued: “I think the EU would be very reluctant in the near future to welcome a penitent UK back.
“It would have to be more than penitent, it would have to be one that had clearly worked through all its political, democratic, constitutional problems and come out the other side of that.”