The Spanish government has flatly rejected Nicola Sturgeon’s proposals to keep Scotland in the single market if the rest of the UK leaves it after Brexit.
The Scottish government detailed its proposals in a paper earlier this week which explored a “Norway option,” whereby the country maintained tariff-free trading with the rest of the bloc.
However, such an arrangement would need to be ratified by not only Westminster but all other EU governments, including Spain — which is wary of encouraging the Catalan separatist movement within its own borders.
Jorge Toledo, the Spanish Secretary of State for the European Union, told the Times: “If the UK leaves the single market, the whole UK will leave the single market. There is only one negotiator, the UK government.”
The Spanish government believes that the Catalan independence movement — where pro-independence parties have a majority of seats in parliament — would be boosted if Scotland was offered a privileged regional status within Europe’s single market.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has also insisted that Madrid would oppose any special Brexit deal for Scotland. He said in June: “If the UK goes, Scotland goes. The Spanish government is against negotiations with anyone apart from the UK government.”
Charles Grant, one of Nicola Sturgeon’s own Brexit advisers, told Business Insider this week that Sturgeon’s proposals are “politically, technically, and legally” unviable, and said a Spanish veto was almost inevitable.
He said: “The Spanish are very sensitive on regional questions. Anything that could encourage the Catalans to think they could have special treatment themselves would be seen as a bad thing by the Spanish government.”
Sturgeon believes that failure to secure single market access — which looks increasingly inevitable — will give her the mandate to call a second independence referendum as it represents what she calls a “material change in circumstances.”
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