BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon said Northern Ireland has a competitive advantage over Scotland in every Brexit deal to stay in the EU single market on Monday in Brussels.
The first minister met EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said, however, that she had recognized that despite "massive sympathy" in Brussels for the majority of Scots who were in favor of remaining in The European Union agreed to negotiate only with the British Government.
Predicting that Prime Minister Theresa May, after months of struggle within her Cabinet and her party, could change course and hold Britain in the EU Customs Union or even throughout the Internal Market, Sturgeon reiterated her fondness for Scotland to stay in both countries, though the rest of the UK is not.
She cited the risk that Scottish companies would be at a competitive disadvantage to neighbors in Northern Ireland if, as the EU offered, they remained largely in the EU system of economic regulation, creating a disturbing " hard border "with EU member Ireland.
"An outcome that gives Northern Ireland a privileged relationship with the Single Market raises real problems for Scotland, as there would clearly be a competitive disadvantage there," Sturgeon said at an event hosted from site Politico.
May excluded a planned "backstop" solution contained in December in a draft agreement that would allow the EU to hold Northern Ireland in its economic system – something that May and her Northern Ireland allies consider her slim parliamentary majority , would isolate the province from the mainland.
May also insists that she will not give in to pressure to seek full membership of the Customs Union for the whole of the UK before the parliamentary votes on the issue that divide her conservative party.
Sturgeon said she remained confident that May would change her position and accept a customs union and possibly membership in the single market.
She said she expects this to be clear by the fall, when she then gives an opinion on whether Scotland is seeking a second referendum to break with London and join the EU. Scotland voted against independence from Britain in 2014. Two years later, in a referendum on EU membership, an overwhelming majority of Scots voted to stay, but Britain as a whole voted in favor of leaving.
Additional coverage by Megan Dollar and Robert-Jan Bartunek; Arrangement by Peter Graff