Scotland politics

Taking the pulse of politicians talking Brexit in Brussels

Signing of the Treaty of Rome Image copyright AP
Image caption The Treaty of Rome was signed on 25 March, 1957

Leaders of the EU's member states have met again - but with a noticeable absentee.

Theresa May gave talks about how to commemorate the Treaty of Rome a miss - perhaps understandable given that she plans to file the UK's EU divorce papers in the next three weeks.

Others are keen to celebrate ties with Europe though. The Scottish government is still pushing to stay in the single market when the UK leaves.

Few know better about Scotland's relationship with the EU than David Martin - a member of the European parliament for more than 30 years.

He told BBC Scotland: "At the moment there's sympathy, there's understanding about why the Scottish government have brought forward their proposals.

"But I don't think yet that translates into support for it."

That's in the part because there's a limit to what Scottish ministers can achieve.

The EU will negotiate solely with UK ministers. And there's little sign for now the UK government is going to put Scottish demands on the table.

Not that everyone thinks it is game over.

I don't know how I'd vote in another [Scottish independent] referendum - emotionally the thought of remaining in the EU is very appealing to me."

David Martin, Labour MEP

The SNP MEP Alyn Smith says: "I think there is a lot of goodwill towards Scotland.

"This process hasn't even started to begin. There's a lot of water to flow under this bridge yet - I'm in the business of keeping all of our options open - and all our options on the table."

Others though think overtures to Scotland are all part of the game on the European side.

Over some Beglian frites, Scotland's Conservative MEP Ian Duncan tells me: "We need to absolutely be united to get the best deal.

Image caption Ian Duncan: "I believe Scots will vote to stay in the UK."

"There are canny negotiators on the other side who are going to do all they can to disunite the United Kingdom - to their own ends, not to help Scotland, not to help the UK: to help themselves."

Senior members of the SNP have said they think another independence referendum will happen if there's not a deal, which meets the Scottish government's demands.

A close relationship with Europe could play a key part on their case.

So, would the EU be open to accepting a newly independent Scotland into the club?

Fabian Zuleeg, chief executive of the European Policy Centre: "I think Scotland would have to apply for EU membership.

"But that process I think would be managed - there would a question of transition periods, it might not be as fast as some people wish, but in the end if an independent country fulfils the conditions of EU membership, I find it hard to believe they would be blocked indefinitely."

What of the Spanish problem?

The SNP's Europe Spokesman was in Madrid earlier this week.

He's been one of the party figures travelling around Europe trying to drum up support for Scotland remaining a key player, in spite of Brexit.

He says the SNP will remain neutral on Catalonia - arguing the case of the want away Spanish region is different from Scotland.

Some will interpret that as a way of trying to make Scottish independence - with full EU membership - more palatable to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Esetban Pons MEP is vice chair for Mr Rajoy's People's Party in the European Parliament.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The trigger for Brexit negotiations are set to begin in the coming weeks

He told me: "If Scotland in the future wants to come back they have to begin the procedure as any other country."

But, I asked him, would Spain try and veto Scotland re-entering?

"No because if you are thinking about Catalonia the situation is very very very different to the Scottish situation."

The SNP argue that any second independence debate would be different to the one in 2014. They hope some people would change their minds.

And one who admits he might is Labour's Mr Martin.

"I don't know how I'd vote in another referendum" he told me. "Emotionally the thought of remaining in the EU is very appealing to me."

The economic case for the UK is stronger he believes.

Common Fisheries Policy

Mr Martin goes on: "Emotion and economy pull you in different directions… a lot would depend on what sort of potential relationship Scotland would have with the UK and with the EU."

But if Scotland did - as an independent country - try to get back, Mr Duncan says there may be a bitter pill to swallow

"If you want to get back into the EU you have to sign up to the Common Fisheries Policy. I wouldn't want any Scottish fisherman back in there if it could be avoided - it's a bad thing."

He adds: "The easiest way to get in is to give up on everything you think important that other people tell you you can't have. To my mind that's not good for anybody."

He predicts the Spanish would veto hypothetical Scottish membership if it didn't sign up for the Commons Fisheries Policy.

But he doesn't think if there is another referendum, that question will have to be answered.

"I believe Scots will vote to stay in the UK."

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