EU top brass Josep Borrell claimed UK would ‘split apart’ in Scottish independence swipe
Josep Borrell: Spain will support Scotland's independence bid
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Fourteen EU member states are preparing to issue the UK with a fierce warning, accusing the British government of risking “significant economic and social damage” to their fishing communities. It comes as wider relations with the 27-member state bloc reach breaking point. Among the countries involved are France, Belgium, Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Cyprus, Portugal, Denmark, Italy, Lithuania, Sweden, Malta and Latvia.
According to reports, they will call for the UK to act “in the spirit and the letter” of the Brexit deal secured last Christmas Eve.
Both the UK and Jersey — a British crown dependency — have infuriated the French government in recent weeks over the reduced numbers of licences handed to small boat owners who fish coastal waters.
In a sign of bloc-wide solidarity, member states will make a thinly veiled threat about the potential impact on future EU-UK relations should Westminster refuse to back down, according to The Guardian, who saw the statement.
It is just one in a string of tensions that have played out between the UK and EU as part of the Brexit saga, with several instances of sharp words having plagued either side of the debate for years.
Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Vice-President of the European Commission, has consistently found himself at the forefront of efforts to intimidate the UK.
Just days into the job, he warned Britain faced becoming a “third country” ‒ in other words, having an estranged relationship with the bloc.
Borrell, who came to the role of High Representative in December 2019, is a veteran in European politics.
Before landing the job, he served as Spain’s foreign minister, the European Union and cooperation, in which he evaluated the country’s foreign policy, paying special interest to policies in relation to the EU and Ibero-America.
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During this time Mr Borrell made a name for himself for being particularly straight talking when it came to issues the UK faced.
On entering the Spanish government in 2018 under the newly elected socialist Pedro Sánchez, the question of whether Spain might block an independent Scotland joining the EU was thrust back on to the agenda.
Spain had previously dismissed the idea, fearing it would give Catalonia the motivation to breakaway and seek EU membership.
But when asked whether Mr Sanchez’s government would accept Scotland’s application to join the bloc if it achieved independence, Mr Borrell made clear his belief that the UK was destined to “split apart” before Spain.
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During a live event with Politico in 2018, he said: “Why not? [accept Scotland into the EU]
“If they leave Britain in accordance with their internal regulation, if Westminster agrees.
“If Westminster agrees, why should we be against it?
“I think the United Kingdom will split apart before Spain.”
The Scottish National Party (SNP) immediately jumped on the comments, saying they destroyed a “favoured unionist scare-story”.
Others in the upper echelons of the EU have also echoed Mr Borrell in his words on independence.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen previously appeared to leave the door open for Scotland to rejoin if it were to become independent.
Last year, when asked by Hungarian MEP István Ujhelyi, of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats Group, about the possibility of Scotland joining the EU, she replied: “Any European State, which respects and promotes the values of the EU, may apply to become a member of the Union.”
It has since been claimed that the EU is entertained by the UK’s struggle to keep the lid on Scottish independence.
Scottish First Minister Nicole Sturgeon has said she plans to hold a second referendum by the end of 2023, and appears bolstered by the EU’s hints that it would accept the country into the bloc post-independence.
Dr Alim Baluch, a professor who specialises in German politics at the University of Bath, recently told Express.co.uk that there remains a degree of anger towards the UK over Brexit in Europe.
He explained that this has largely been channelled into member states’ subtly wading into the independence debate.
He said: “But there is still anger about Brexit under the surface, and it could play out with Scottish independence.
“There’s a degree of schadenfreude when it comes to independence, so Germany may reach out for that.
“We have seen more friendly messages from Spain in recent times, despite the situation with Catalonia.
“After Brexit we saw Spain say, ‘Well if Scottish independence comes legally then we will not stop Scotland from joining the EU, that’s not our job.’
“So we’ve seen a shift where EU members like to provoke the UK in subtle ways.”
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