November 20, 2018 / 5:50 PM / in 23 days

Spain would not oppose future independent Scotland rejoining EU: minister

FILE PHOTO: Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell waits for Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov before a meeting at the foreign ministry in Madrid, Spain, November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Spain would have no objection to Scotland rejoining the European Union as an independent nation, as long as the secession process from the United Kingdom was legally binding, Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell said on Tuesday.

During a fiercely fought referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom in 2014, one of the potential stumbling blocks for Scotland to rejoin the European Union was perceived to be the potential veto of EU member Spain, because of worries about its own secessionists in northeastern region Catalonia.

Spain’s government, then headed by Conservatives, has changed since 2014 and is now headed by Socialist Pedro Sanchez. Scotland rejected independence by a 10-point margin in 2014 but since then support for a separate Scotland has stayed at around the same level, 45 percent, according to polls.

Asked if a Sanchez government would accept Scotland’s EU application to join if Scotland left the United Kingdom and fulfilled the requirements of the UK constitution, Borrell said: “Why not? If they leave Britain in accordance with their internal regulation, if Westminster agrees ...,”

“If Westminster (Britain’s national parliament) agrees, why should we be against it? (...) I think the United Kingdom will split apart before Spain,” he told Politico in an interview before a live audience.

Scotland’s pro-independence Scottish National Party, the biggest party in Scotland, welcomed the comments, saying they destroyed a “favored unionist scare-story”.

Britain’s 52-48 percent 2016 vote to leave the European Union has called the future of the four-nation United Kingdom into question because England and Wales voted to leave but Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay.

Reporting by Robin Emmott; Writing by Elisabeth O'Leary in Edinburgh; editing by Stephen Addison

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