The United Kingdom leaving the European Union could lead to Scottish independence, William Hague has warmed.
The former foreign secretary said the Scottish National Party would “jump at the chance” to hold another referendum on independence, using UK exit from the bloc as pretext.
Lord Hague said his fears about Scottish independence meant he would campaign to stay in the EU.
Support for EU membership tends to be higher in Scotland, according to polls. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has previously called for a “double lock” on any EU referendum to prevent the UK leaving the EU without the approval of all of its home nations.
Under this proposal, the UK, Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland would have all independent have to have voted to leave the EU in the plebiscite in order to trigger an exit.
The British Government has however rejected this idea – meaning the UK could take Scotland out of the EU even if Scotland voted to remain.
Lord Hague, a former Tory leader, has generally been considered a eurosceptic.
“We will have to ask, disliking so many aspects of [the EU] as we do, whether we really want to weaken it, and at the same time increase the chances, if the UK left the EU, of Scotland leaving the UK,” he wrote in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
“Scottish nationalists would jump at the chance to reverse the argument of last year’s referendum – now it would be them saying they would stay in Europe without us. They would have the pretext for their second referendum, and the result of it could well be too close to call.
“To end up destroying the United Kingdom and gravely weakening the European Union would not be a very clever day’s work. So, even as a long-standing critic of so much of that struggling organisation, I am unlikely in 2016 to vote to leave it.”
David Cameron has pledged to hold a referendum on European Union membership before the end of 2017. Observers say the referendum could come as early as next year.
The Prime Minister has pledged to renegotiate Britain’s membership of the European Union before any poll is held. He says he wants to deregulate the bloc, restrict access to in-work benefit for EU migrants, and protect the single market for non-EU members.
The Conservative party is set to split over EU membership, with at least half a dozen Cabinet ministers expected to campaign against membership, according to senior Tory eurosceptic John Redwood.
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