Scotland can “rule nothing out, nor in” regarding EFTA membership, says MEP

During OpenSpace Q & A, MEP says compromise over full EU membership cannot be ruled out

ALYN SMITH MEP told the online forum OpenSpace, that although the Scottish Government should focus on maintaining membership of the European Union (EU) and single market; nothing would be gained by ruling out other free trade memberships.

The comment was in response to questions over Scotland possible choosing membership of the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA). According to Smith, this would be an option only if full membership of the EU could not be secured.

The SNP MEP, who is also running for SNP party depute, said: “Scotland was unanimous across all local authority areas, and voted 62 per cent to Remain, so that is our starting point. Beyond that, I would rule nothing out, nor in.

“Scotland was unanimous across all local authority areas, and voted 62 per cent to Remain, so that is our starting point. Beyond that, I would rule nothing out, nor in.” Alyn Smith

“Brexit has not even started to happen yet, so I see nothing to be gained in writing off any option, however unlikely.”

Following the result of the EU referendum on June 24, the Scottish Government has emphasised its commitment to continuing full membership of the EU, citing the outcome of the vote in Scotland which saw 62 per cent of the vote secured for remaining.

Yet membership of EFTA has been proposed by academics, as a way of satisfying the concerns of the million people who voted to leave the EU in Scotland, and providing a chance for cooperation with nations like Norway over common fishieries and energy interests in the North Sea.

“Brexit has not even started to happen yet, so I see nothing to be gained in writing off any option, however unlikely.” Alyn Smith

The EFTA is a free trade zone in Europe which consists of Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, but is different to the EU single market which is the Scottish government’s first option.

Scottish Government minister for Brexit talks Mike Russell said told [Thursday 29 September] that EEA or EFTA membership would not appear to satisfy three of the government’s five key Brexit pledges.

A single market is like a free trade area in that there are no tariffs, quotas or taxes on trade, however, there is also free movement of goods, services, capital and people. On the other hand a free trade area has no tariffs or taxes or quotas on goods and/or services from one country entering another. However, EFTA members have also accepted the core rules of free movement as part of their access to the European market.

Three current members of EFTA, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway, have all negotiated access to the single market but have not agreed to agriculture and fishery terms. They have to implement EU single market rules and regulations in their own countries and pay varying amounts towards the EU for this access.

Switzerland has spent the best part of a decade negotiating a series of bilateral deals that give it access to the single market for most industries, although the deal has been put under strain due to Swiss stances immigration; as the EU demands EU citizens must have access to EFTA countries.

Picture courtesy of NHD-INFO

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