(Adds quotes, French minister comment)
LUXEMBOURG, June 27 (Reuters) - Scotland has received a sympathetic hearing in informal talks with French, German and Irish agriculture ministers aimed at maintaining its European Union membership in some form, Scottish farming minister Fergus Ewing said on Monday.
Scotland wanted to explore all the opportunities available, he told Reuters, including taking up the United Kingdom’s European Union membership after Britain’s decision to leave the EU in last week’s referendum.
In Scotland, the vote was strongly against leaving the EU. The devolved government has pledged to do what it can to stop Scotland being forced out of the EU, including possibly holding another referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom.
“What I found today speaking to colleagues ... was a sympathetic hearing. We had constructive talks and we are keen to continue a dialogue with those member states over the coming weeks and months,” Ewing said.
He said he was encouraged by other indications of support within the EU. “Over the past 24 hours, senior officials in Europe have said they would like to see Scotland as the 28th member state,” he added, declining to give names.
French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said his meeting with Ewing had been at the Scot’s request.
“If the minister is there, it is because at government level they are trying to make contacts and it seemed to me totally legitimate to be able to meet him and discuss with him,” he told reporters.
Ewing, who said Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had asked all ministers to initiate such talks, conceded that finding a way to remain in the EU would not be easy.
“There is no mechanism for Scotland to remain part of the EU with Britain coming out, but the EU has shown itself to be adaptable and flexible,” he said.
“I’m not suggesting there are simple solutions. We are into uncharted territory here.” (Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; writing by Elisabeth O’Leary; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
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