Scotland has resigned to the fact that it would be leaving the European Union as part of the United Kingdom but its government is not giving up on trying to stay in the EU’s single market. Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish government external affairs minister, said during her two-day visit to Brussels that a U-turn position on Brexit or another referendum was “wishful thinking”, adding that “we’ve got to be realistic here.” Ms. Hyslop also noted that “the UK seems to be adamant that they want to leave. We think that continued membership of the EU is what’s in the best interests of Scotland and the rest of the UK. But I think perhaps it is overly optimistic to think that would happen.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May had insisted that the whole United Kingdom would leave the single market and custom union as a consequence of Brexit in March next year, although not much would change in reality for another two years. Ms. May is expected to provide more details on the future relationship with the EU later in February. London has hinted that it sees a broad free trade agreement, closer than the recent EU deal with Canada.
A Scottish government study showed last week that even staying in the single market would mean a loss of 2.7 percentage points of GDP – which Ms. Hyslop called the “least worst option”. While most Scots voted for staying in the EU in the 2016 referendum, many of those who support Brexit are against single market and customs union membership because it would mean that Britain would have to accept open immigration from continental Europe while also preventing it from making its own free trade agreements with other countries.