As SNP MSP says indyref2 'on backburner'...

Post-Brexit Scotland ‘could retain some EU laws’

Michael Keating
Michael Keating

Scotland could continue to be governed by European legislation in a post-Brexit environment, according to an EU expert.

Michael Keating of Aberdeen University said Westminster would only retain control over existing reserved powers, but Scotland could adopt EU laws over such things as environmental regulation which are governed by Europe, even if other UK nations chose to reject them.

This was “government in parallel with the EU,” he said.  But he cautioned that this “should not be confused with being in the EU itself”.

Prof Keating, addressing a conference on Scotland and Brexit at Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh, ridiculed the idea of a “reverse Greenland”.

Greenland exited the EU in 1979 while Denmark, its ruling country, remained a member. Under that scenario, Scotland remaining would mean it taking on all the current responsibilities of the UK which was not feasible, said Prof Keating.

The event, organised by the Centre on Constitutional Change, of which he is a director, was addressed by a panel of academics and politicians.

Lib Dem Tavish Scott questioned First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s pronouncement at the weekend that Scottish independence transcended Brexit and other issues.

joan-mcalpineJoan McAlpine for the SNP (right) said that the First Minister had “put independence on the back burner” while the Brexit talks were on.

“Everything that the first minister has said so far suggests that an independence referendum is very much on the back burner, and the priority just now is to secure the best possible deal for Scotland,” she said.

She added that it looked like Westminster was heading towards a “hard Brexit” and that the future was “scary”.

Panelists were asked what sort of relationship with the EU would work best for Britain.

Referring to the alternative trade agreements that exist between EU and non-EU states, Prof David Bell, of Stirling University, said the EU “is not too happy about how some of these arrangements are working.”

He said: “These deals are complicated. Can American health companies bid for health services in Europe? Who sets up competition rules? How do state aid agreements work?”

Jackson Carlaw for the Tories said he would expect negotiations to be concluded “sooner rather than later” once Article 50, the measure used to withdraw from the EU, is triggered.

He noted, however, that there were a number of major elections in key EU member states over the next two years.

Addressing the immigration issue, Prof Christina Boswell, also of Edinburgh University, said measures by Westminster to control it had already failed and it was complicated by the demands of businesses to attract overseas workers.

Looking at the combination of factors, she said an “immigration cap” might be one solution, but could prove difficult because of the requirements of being a member of the single market.

“Leaving the single market would therefore be the best way to reduce immigration,” she said.

None of the panelists argued in favour of that option. Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said it was crucial that Westminster made clear its position on this issue.

Green MSP Ross Greer said there “probably will be a second independence referendum”, particularly if the UK government opts for a “hard” Brexit deal, such as involving a break from the single market.


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