Scotland could seek ‘Norway model’ on EU — Says the UK is “mired in confusion”

BBC News

EU flags

Scotland voted to remain in the EU while the UK as a whole voted to leave in June’s referendum. Reuters Photo

Scotland could seek to join the European Economic Area (EEA) as part of the search for a distinctive Scottish response to Brexit.

The so-called Norway model has been privately floated as a possibility as the Scottish government seeks ways to maintain Scotland’s links with the EU.

BBC Scotland’s political editor Brian Taylor said the plan could give EU citizens the right to work in Scotland.

But it could only happen if the UK and European institutions agreed.

The Scottish government has said it will publish plans aimed at protecting Scotland’s place in Europe in the coming weeks.

The EEA includes the existing EU states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

Membership of the EEA allows Norway to have full access to the single market, with the country obliged to make a financial contribution to the EU budget and to accept the majority of EU laws.

Norwegians have free movement across the EU, with EU citizens free to live and work in Norway too.

The country is exempt from EU rules on agriculture, fisheries, justice and home affairs – but the downside is that Norway has no say over how the rules of the single market are created.

Back door access

Supporters of Scotland attempting to secure EEA membership say it would allow people from EEA countries to work in Scotland even if they faced constraints elsewhere in the UK.

They argue that people employed in Scotland are already identified by a distinct tax code because of Holyrood’s tax powers.

But the UK government might take some convincing if ministers feared back door access to the wider UK through Scotland.

Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Parliament is to debate the country’s membership of the EU single market on Tuesday afternoon. Credit PA

The idea emerged as Holyrood prepared to debate a Scottish government motion urging MSPs to back Scotland staying within the European single market.

The motion calls on Scotland’s place in the single market to be “fully protected”, and calls for clarity from the UK government on its proposals to leave the EU, including whether it will seek continued membership of the single market.

Speaking ahead of the debate, SNP MSP Bruce Crawford said the UK government was “mired in confusion” over questions such as whether the UK and Scotland should be in the single market.

He added: “Every area of Scotland voted to remain in the EU and today’s debate is an opportunity for the Tories and all other parties to reject a hard Brexit and stand up for Scotland.

“At this crucial stage while the UK government is still working out its negotiating position, this is the time to make Scotland’s voice heard and challenge head-on those who want to lead us out of the single market, with all the costs to Scottish jobs and the economy.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser challenged the Scottish government to set out exactly what it wants from Brexit.

‘Growth shock’

Mr Fraser said: “You would think nearly five months on from the Brexit vote, after all the attention paid to this issue by the first minister and her cabinet, we might be a little further forward.

“But there is still absolutely no clarity on where the Scottish government stands on these matters, while all the time it demands absolute clarity from the UK government which is conducting the negotiation.”

Scottish Labour’s economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “It is illogical for the SNP to spend so much energy making the case for the EU single market yet at the same time campaigning to leave the much more valuable UK single market.”

It comes as a report prepared for Holyrood’s economy committee estimated that Scotland could face further cuts in a Brexit “growth shock”.

Economic think-tank IPPR Scotland said that if UK Chancellor Phillip Hammond uses public spending cuts to plug the whole of the £25bn UK budget gap per year by 2019/20 projected by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), it would cause a further £1.3bn cut to Scottish funds.

The scenario was one of three modelled by the think-tank, which also examined the impact of Westminster using public spending to deal with half or quarter of the budget gap – found to cause £670m and £330m further cuts to the Scottish settlement.

IPPR Scotland director Russell Gunson said: “Any further cuts to day-to-day spending in the rest of the UK could mean cuts for Scotland’s budgets too, on top of very significant cuts already planned over the coming years.”


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