SNP to relaunch its Europe manifesto with a revised EFTA plan
The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) could be a halfway house to rejoining the European Union, says Mike Russell
Brexit flags: Picture credit - PA
Proposals to take Scotland into small European trading bloc EFTA will be published later this year in a relaunch of the SNP’s Scotland’s Place in Europe manifesto.
Brexit Minister Mike Russell has pledged to outlined "the facts" of Brexit, to counter the "bollocks" spread by the "lunatic fringe" leading the negotiations to take Britain out of the European Union.
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The original Scotland’s Place in Europe paper proposed three options to respect the wishes of the 62 per cent of Scots who voted to remain in the EU - keep the UK in the single market, keep Scotland in the single market if the UK leaves, or hold a second independence referendum.
It was flatly dismissed by UK ministers, who said some of the proposals to keep Scotland in the Europe were "fanciful" and ruled out any Brexit deal that would leave Britain "half in and half out" of Europe.
The snub set Sturgeon on a course for a second independence referendum, until the SNP’s humbling losses in the snap general election forced her to "reset" her timetable.
Theresa May also suffered some punishing losses at the election, and the Scottish Government believes all of the options outlined in Scotland’s Place In Europe are now back in play despite the UK Government’s confirmation that intends to take Britain out of the single market.
Speaking at the launch of a Scotland In Europe factbook, Russell said: "This is a debate that has had a great deal of information in it but a lot of it is - and let me use a technical term - a lot of it is just bollocks.
"The reality of the situation is we need the real facts about the EU.
"There has been a sustained campaign of disinformation about the EU and our membership of the EU, not just in the last two years but in the last several generations.
"There have been people that didn’t want that engagement, the sovereigntists who we thought at one stage were on the lunatic fringe of politics, but the lunatics have taken over the asylum, well and truly."
He pledged to elaborate on the SNP’s proposal to take Scotland into the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) in the coming months.
He added: "Membership of the EEA through EFTA was meant to be, at one stage, the way you came into membership of the EU.
"It turned out not to be that, and actually it’s not a bad place to hold yourself if you actually want to re-enter so that is the essential, and one of the reasons we took that position in Scotland’s Place in Europe last year — and it is why we will expand on that position in the re-issue of Scotland’s Place in Europe, broadened out and developed, later this year."
EFTA is a regional trade organisation comprising Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, with a combined population of around 13.5m people.
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