Spain would reject any attempt by Nicola Sturgeon for Scotland to stay in the EU single market if the rest of the UK comes out, one of the country’s most powerful MEPs warned last night.
Esteban Gonzalez Pons, who leads the Spanish delegation of MEPs in the European Parliament’s largest political grouping, told the Telegraph that Ms Sturgeon’s proposals for a special Scottish deal are “impossible.”
He said the Spanish government would oppose any plan by SNP ministers to stay in the EU single market if the rest of the UK leaves for fear of encouraging its own separatist movements in areas like Catalonia and the Basque Country.
In a major blow to the First Minister, he said the Spanish government is planning to be the United Kingdom’s “best friend” during the Brexit negotiations and they share “the same point of view about the Scottish question.”
The MEP, who sits on the parliament’s constitutional affairs committee, also echoed academic warnings that Ms Sturgeon’s plan would create a hard border between Scotland and England.
His intervention is significant as any special deal for Scotland, including membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Area (EEA), would require the consent of all EU member states.
Although Mr Gonzalez Pons was not speaking on behalf of the Spanish government, which will not comment on the Brexit negotiations until the UK triggers the Article 50 process, he said his view represented the stance of Spain’s ruling People’s Party (PP).
The PP is headed by Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish Prime Minister, who said in June that Scotland would have to leave the EU along with the rest of the UK. Mr Gonzalez Pons is also the vice-chair of the European People’s Party (EPP) group of centre and centre-Right MEPs.
He agreed to an interview with this newspaper after holding a meeting with Alfonso Dastis, the Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister, during which they discussed misleading comments made this week in Brussels by Ms Sturgeon’s Brexit Minister.
Speaking to an audience of EU diplomats and officials, Mike Russell dropped heavy hints that the Scottish Government was in talks with the Spanish about a special deal. However, this was flatly rejected by Spain’s Foreign Ministry.