Scotland, Brexit and Britain’s Dilemma: Separation or Membership?

These days one of the most important headlines in Europe is the no-deal Brexit and the issue of Scotland and its future in the post-Brexit era.

Scotland, from the very beginning of the formation of the European Union (EU), did not agree with Britain’s membership. Gradually, however, the country’s approach changed with the passage of time.

This change of approach reached its height in the 2016 referendum, when the majority of Scottish people voted against Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. The Scottish Government has officially stated that it has no intention of leaving the EU and has asked the British Government to extend the transition period until after the Covid-19 pandemic.

While it is rumoured that Britain has reached a Brexit trade deal with the EU, the main question of what will be the prospects of Scotland in case of a no-deal Brexit remains.

The Scottish Status: The British-EU Dipole

A no-deal Brexit will have a severe impact on Scotland. Many of its citizens are already worried about food shortages and the import of medicine to their country and their economic and trade situation remains unforeseen in a post-Brexit era.

As mentioned earlier, Scotland voted against secession from the EU in 2016. The Scottish Government has stated that it opposes leaving the EU and will apply to join the union as an independent country in case of a no-deal Brexit.

The local government of Scotland will plan to hold a referendum on independence from Britain again after Brexit.

This time around, the people of Scotland seem more united on the subject of independence.  According to a survey, more than 69% of people in the country agree with independence from Britain.

This statistic has grown by more than 24% as compared to the last referendum in 2014. When the Scottish Government conducted a referendum on independence at that time, it was opposed by the majority.

Over 55% of Scots voted against leaving Britain in 2014, and the issue of Scottish independence from Britain was ruled out. But these days, there are large numbers of people on the streets of Scotland chanting pro-independence slogans flag in hand.

It seems that Scottish nationalism is making a comeback. In fact, the issue of Brexit, which is looking increasingly like a crisis, seems to have changed the situation for the supporters  of Scottish independence.

But the situation is not so simple. The devolved Government of Scotland, led by Nicola Sturgeon, seems to be facing a dilemma. It has two main options: The first path is to remain united with Britain and agree with Brexit, and the other option is the country’s independence from Britain and reintegration into the EU.

Going through each path and choosing each option will have its own consequences. Despite the Scottish Government’s decisive willingness to stand by the EU, this does not seem to be an easy task.

Secession from the EU: The Gordian Knot of Foreign Trade and GDP

Britain’s withdrawal from the EU does not only affect England. Scotland, as a member of the United Kingdom, will not be spared. The main problem is that UK countries have not yet presented a comprehensive and detailed plan for the post-Brexit era.

Leaving the EU would mean tariffs on food, medicine, cars, imports and exports. A large part of the Scottish economy will be damaged or greatly impacted at best in case of a no-deal Brexit. It will be difficult for the whole UK to recover without a trade agreement.

A slowdown in GDP growth and rising prices could lead to unprecedented inflation, which is a potential  reason for a big crisis.

This is a matter of great concern for the devolved government and has become one of the main reasons prompting Scotland’s wish of independence from Britain. These, along with problems in travel, transportation, the postal system, services and of course the academic system have become big concerns for Scotland.

Independence from Britain and its Aftermath

Leaving Britain and then applying for EU membership seems to be a simple option for Scotland at first glance. But by reviewing the current circumstances and realities, it can be concluded that this will not be a smooth path for the Sturgeon government.

Firstly, there is Britain’s outspoken opposition to the secession and Scotland’s independence. Boris Johnson has explicitly stated his opposition to the idea of ​​Scottish independence and a new referendum.

With a majority in the British Parliament, Johnson has made it very difficult for Scotland to leave the union. Scotland will not be able to get permission for an independence referendum without the permission of the UK Government and Johnson’s negative view on the idea means that the British Parliament is opposed to the idea of ​​holding a referendum again.

Scotland seems to have relied on the support of EU member states for independence. But given the fact that none of the member states is interested in contention with Britain, this option is practically rejected.

In fact, it is unlikely that European countries will side with Scotland in the midst of an Anglo-Scottish conflict and will act in line with its policies, because despite Britain’s isolationist policy towards the EU, it is still one of the most important and decisive countries in Europe.

But this is not the end of Scotland’s impasse to independence. In fact, the second problem is that Scotland’s secession from Britain requires its basic infrastructure to function independently as a separate state from the UK.

It seems that Scotland will not be able to make this decision without prior planning and the creation of the necessary infrastructure. The country’s independence from the UK and its reintegration into the EU would also mean a complex situation in its borders and the flow of imports and exports.

Scotland must have a fundamental overhaul of its borders and imports if it wants to become independent and rejoin the EU. It has no borders with any EU countries and trade flows through the British border.

Border checks for imports-exports are not something that Scotland or even the UK would like. Although Boris Johnson has promised to establish a borderline for the export and import of goods through the Irish Sea, the main issue remains.

Even if Scotland has no problem in importing goods freely from the EU, the issue of exporting goods to the EU will face major hurdles. The EU may set different standards for checks on goods across the UK, which can lead to new problems for Scottish exports. Despite all this, if all the obstacles on the path of borders and imports-exports are resolved, a large part of the Scottish economy will still rely on Britain.

This sector is much larger and more significant than Scottish trade with Europe and cannot be ignored. For this reason, Scotland must have fundamental plans for its independence from Britain and the establishment of borders. Given this fact, the rational view of Scottish economists is to prioritize economic interests which are more widely tied to Britain than the EU.

Scotland in a Dilemma: What Will Happen?

With the irrational and hasty decision of the British Government to implement Brexit, even without an agreement, separatist movements seem to have a great potential for turning into new crises at borders in the UK.

Britain has no interest in awakening these tendencies at its borders. But with the hasty choice of a no-deal Brexit, its catastrophic and unpleasant outcome is not unimaginable.

If that happens, the process will reach a point where, as a result, UK countries will move towards independence, or at least to being more independent. Expecting Scotland’s quick independence from Britain may seem a bit unrealistic and far-fetched, but the progress of devolved governments in this direction will not be unexpected.

This assumption is reinforced by the growing of nationalist tendencies of the people of Scotland. However, it remains to be seen how Britain will react to the upcoming end of the Brexit transition period. If it is to move towards legal agreements and is willing to maintain the level of trade and ties at present levels, the most logical option for Scotland is to remain dependent on Britain and follow the UK’s decisions, at least for the next few years.

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