Scottish Government Brexit plan: Nicola Sturgeon outlines options for retaining access to single market

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 20 December 2016 in News

Nicola Sturgeon argues for the UK to remain in the single market, while outlining options for Scotland to stay in the trade area if the UK pursues a hard Brexit

Nicola Sturgeon - credit: FM's office

The Scottish Government has published its Brexit proposals, with Nicola Sturgeon arguing for the UK to remain in the single market, while outlining options for Scotland to stay in the trade area if the UK pursues a hard Brexit.

Releasing the Scottish Government’s strategy paper, Scotland’s Place in Europe, the First Minister said her preferred option was for Scotland to become a full member of the EU as an independent country, but that the paper would examine a solution that would protect Scotland’s place in the European Single Market from within the UK.

The paper argues for the UK to remain within the European Single Market – through the European Economic Area (EEA) – and within the EU customs union, but also examines how Scotland could remain a member of the European Single Market and retain some key benefits of EU membership even if the rest of the UK decides to leave.


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Speaking at Bute House, Sturgeon argued it would be “democratically justifiable” for the whole of the UK to remain in the European Single Market after leaving the EU.

Sturgeon also called for a wholesale review of devolution within the UK.

The paper says: “There is no basis whatsoever for the assumption that all of those who voted to leave the EU also wanted to exit the European Single Market. Indeed, it is arguable that quite the opposite was the case – that there is simply no majority support for taking the UK out of the European Single Market or EU Customs Union. Membership of the EU and the European Single Market are, after all, quite distinct propositions.”

The paper says that, for the UK to remain a full member of the EEA it would need to join the European Free Trade Association initially and then retain or renew EEA membership.

But while the Scottish Government recommends that the UK retains access to the Single Market, it concedes “we are not confident the UK Government will accept this proposition”, citing the Prime Minister’s refusal to accept external arbitration and opposition to free movement of people as reasons that any compromise is unlikely.

The paper says: “The proposals in this paper represent a significant compromise on behalf of the Scottish Government, but we make them in line with the commitment we gave to explore all options and build as much consensus as possible. We also believe that, short of continuing UK membership of the EU or independence within the EU for Scotland, these proposals are the best way to protect Scotland’s interests.

“We believe that the UK should remain members of the Single Market or should agree that it will support Scotland in doing so – in line with its previous commitments on the nature of the UK as a “partnership” and its agreement to develop a UK approach to negotiations”.

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