Steve Peers, Professor of EU, Human Rights and World Trade Law at Essex University, blogged a couple of days ago about the legal issues surrounding an independent Scotland’s relationship with the EU.
We found the section on Scotland being outside of the EU but in the European Economic Area (EEA)—à la Norway—to be particularly interesting in light of the Scottish fishing industry’s issues with the EU, rising Euroscepticism, and the disproportionate amount of trade Scotland does with the rUK. And of course being in the EEA would—unlike in the event of a “hard Brexit” as part of the UK— ensure that Scotland maintains freedom of movement, a factor important to continued economic prosperity. Professor Peers:
The most obvious route for Scotland to consider [while/if it’s not an EU member state] would be membership of the European Economic Area (EEA), along with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The EEA provides for participation of these non-EU countries in the EU’s single market freedoms and all the EU legislation related to them, as well as most EU employment and environmental law. But Scotland would not be covered by EU laws in other areas, notably agriculture, fisheries, tax and justice and home affairs – although, like Norway and Iceland, it could sign separate treaties with the EU on these issues. Although the current EEA countries have joined Schengen, this is a separate issue (agreed years after the EEA), and Scotland would have no legal obligation to do the same.
There would be no obligation to join the EU single currency (or any related constraints regarding deficits), and most significantly Scotland would be free to sign separate trade agreements with non-EU countries, because the EEA does not cover the EU’s customs union. This is particularly important because it means Scotland could seek to retain a closer economic relationship with the rUK than the rUK might have with the EU.