FMQs: Sturgeon clashes with Ross over Scotland joining EU
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Nicola Sturgeon may be jeopardising the possibility of an independent Scotland joining the EU with her refusal to commit to joining the Euro as well, an expert has warned. EU law states that to join the bloc, countries must commit to adopting the European single currency at some point in the future. The SNP leader faced a brutal round of questioning during first minister’s questions yesterday, in which Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross accused her of “lying” by stating that Scotland would be able to join the EU without adopting its currency. The First Minister responded with examples of EU countries that continue to use their own currency – but Kirsty Hughes, founder and former director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations, told Express.co.uk that these countries have still committed to joining the Euro, and Ms Sturgeon’s insistence that Scotland would not do so may even turn Brussels against her.
Ms Hughes said: “EU candidates are expected to commit to joining the euro when they meet the convergence criteria. But new member states first join using their own currency, only later joining the euro if they meet the criteria, which is why some member states still use their own currency.
“So both sides are to some extent stretching the situation to suit their own positions – whether to imply Scotland must join the euro to join the EU or doesn’t have to. The point is it must commit to.”
EU and international trade lawyer Eric White of Herbert Smith Freehills told Express.co.uk that he believed there may be a way for Scotland to join the EU without also becoming part of the Euro – but said this was “a matter to be settled in any future accession negotiations with the EU”.
Mr White said regarding members states not in the Euro such as Sweden, that while they have joined the EU and in principle committed to the Euro, they are “not intending to join any time soon”.
However, Ms Hughes observed that Scotland’s apparent refusal to join the Euro even in principle may impact negatively on their relationship with Brussels in attempting to join the bloc.
Ms Hughes said: “The problem for the Scottish government is if it sounds like it won’t make that commitment in good faith then that will be noted in Brussels and could impact on its accession process.”
During first minister’s questions, Mr Ross asked: “Who’s lying to the Scottish people, the European Union or Nicola Sturgeon?” The First Minister provided a number of examples of countries in the European Union who continue to use their currency, including Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Sweden.
Speaking at a briefing afterwards, Ms Sturgeon’s official spokesman provided an even firmer assessment of the Scottish government’s opposition to the single currency, saying: “The weight of opinion and the hard facts and evidence in the form of countries like Sweden and the various others who have joined the EU many years ago and they have not and cannot — cannot — be forced to join the euro.”
While there is no timetable for when they would need to adopt the currency, all of the countries cited by Ms Sturgeon have committed to doing so at some point – while the First Minister refused to say that Scotland would do the same.
The EU’s rules state: “All EU member states, except Denmark, are required to adopt the euro and join the euro area.”
A senior source speaking to The Times said: “No euro, no membership” – a view which the outlet says was supported by another three officials. Mr Ross had further condemnation of Ms Sturgeon’s position, describing her answers in the chamber as “desperate stuff”.
He said: “The first minister’s big plan is actually to break Scotland away from by far our biggest trading partner — the United Kingdom — with nothing to show for it, in the middle of a global inflation and cost of living crisis.
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“And she wants to put businesses and families through that in the next 12 months.”
He went on to attack a paper Ms Sturgeon had published on independence, which he claimed would result in “permanent economic chaos,” permanent austerity”, and “permanent higher taxes”. Scottish Labour’s spokeswoman Sarah Boyack similarly slammed the First Minister, saying the SNP “seem to think they know more about economics than the economists and more about EU members than the EU”.
Ms Sturgeon said that the best future for Scotland was to “become independent, in charge of our own affairs and our own destiny, not continuing to be dragged down the wrong paths by Westminster governments”.
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