From Greenland to Svalbard: Scotland’s quest for a differentiated Brexit

On 20 December 2016, the Scottish Government released its blueprint on how Scotland can remain in the European Single Market post-Brexit. From the governing SNP’s point of view, the paper can be seen as a compromise given that it does not advocate Scottish independence. Instead, it proposes that the best outcome for the UK as a whole is to remain in the European Economic Agreement following the ‘Norway model’. It recognises, however, that in the current political constellation this seems unlikely. So, it argues for the continued membership of Scotland in the European Single Market.

This can happen through the EEA equivalent of the ‘Reverse Greenland’ model. The UK will maintain its EEA membership but there will be a territorial exemption for England and Wales. The EEA acquis will fully apply only in Scotland (and potentially in Northern Ireland). The precedent for that can be also found in the Arctic circle. Norway has secured a territorial exemption for the insular islands of the archipelago of Svalbard that are not part of EEA.

The Scottish Government recognises that the realization of the proposal will need flexibility both from the UK Government and the European partners. To this effect, the blueprint suggests certain ways in order to somehow absorb the tensions coming from a differentiated Brexit. In a recently published paper I have explained that the ‘Reverse Greenland’ model would lead to the creation of a hard customs border within the territory of the UK. This is why the Scottish Government suggests that Scotland should remain within the UK customs area.

With regard to the free movement of persons, however, the suggestions are less comprehensive. First, the proposal does not explain who of those residing in Scotland will be considered EEA nationals and thus enjoy the free movement principle and who will not ...

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