Brexit: Scotland would be ‘enthusiastically’ welcomed by EU if it wins independence, says Tusk

‘If you ask me about our emotions, you will witness I think always empathy,’ says former European Council president

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
@ashcowburn
Sunday 02 February 2020 13:08
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Donald Tusk: Scotland would get 'enthusiastic' welcome if seeking to rejoin the UK

Scotland would be welcomed enthusiastically by the European Union if it won independence from the rest of the UK, according to Donald Tusk.

Speaking after the UK officially severed its 47-year membership of the bloc on Friday, the former president of the European Council also said negotiations over future trade will be focused on “damage control”.

On the issue of Scottish independence, which Downing Street is resisting, Mr Tusk said while he wanted to “respect the internal debate” in the UK, he felt “very Scottish” after Brexit.

“Emotionally I have no doubt that everyone will be enthusiastic here in Brussels, and more generally in Europe,” he added on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

He warned the process of rejoining the bloc would not be automatic and there would still be a process of application for any country wishing to join the EU, but added: “If you ask me about our emotions, you will witness I think always empathy.”

The comments drew criticism from Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, who said Mr Tusk’s intervention was “irresponsible”.

Mr Raab said: “I think it was frankly un-European and rather irresponsible given the separatist tendencies in Spain, in France, in Italy. I’m not sure European leaders, let alone leaders here in the UK would actually welcome that kind of language.”

In response to accusations there was no plan for Scotland, Mr Raab added: “I don’t think that’s right, we want to make sure, with the levelling-up agenda, with the opportunities of Brexit right across the board, that Scotland’s got the great opportunity to take advantage of all those benefits.

“At the same time, we obviously expect the SNP to deliver on its commitment to honour the outcome of the independence referendum and not keep coming back and asking for a second one.

“But a lot of this is a distraction from the standards in schools, the high level of taxes, that actually the job of the Scottish government in discharging its responsibility to the Scottish people ought to be focused on.”

On Friday, Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, who has been demanding Boris Johnson grant the Scottish government the powers to hold a second independence referendum, said Brexit was a “profound moment of sadness” for many who did not vote to Leave in Scotland.

The comments from Mr Tusk come after a YouGov poll which showed 51 per cent support for independence – a majority for the first time in five years.

However, a majority of Scots surveyed also said they would not like to see another vote on the issue in 2020 or 2021, but most said they would like to see another referendum within the next five years.

Also speaking on the issue, Labour’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, told the BBC: “I desperately don’t want them to, I want a United Kingdom. I will always argue for that UK and I’m hoping they don’t go along that path.

“But I just say to Boris Johnson and his colleagues, do not do things that will threaten the unity of our country – and the language that we’ve heard even in the last 24 hours is divisive, rather than holding the country together.

“And if he can’t secure a good deal, it will again encourage others therefore in Scotland to go their own way and I think it would be completely counterproductive for the Scottish people.”

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