Addressing a Brussels audience, Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell made it clear that the current Socialist government in Madrid would not veto an EU membership application by Scotland if it were to declare independence from the United Kingdom.
Asked directly whether Spain would first recognise a Scottish secessionist government and then accept the membership of a newly independent Scotland, Borrell answered hinted that Spain would, in fact, back a move by Scottish nationalists to break away from the rest of the United Kingdom if they used legal means to achieve the goal.
“If they leave Britain in accordance with their internal regulation, if Westminster agrees, we are not going to be more papist than the pope! If Westminster agrees why would we be against it,” said Borrell.
Borrell went on to say that the pressures being brought upon the UK by Brexit have severely weakened the union, so much so that he believes that there is a better chance that the 300-year-old United Kingdom could break apart long before the Kingdom of Spain.
“I’m much more concerned about the unity of the United Kingdom than the unity of the Kingdom of Spain,” Borrell said on November 21, before adding that the current situation is “a clear sign of UK weakness.”
He went on to clarify that Spain does not regard the case of Scotland to be comparable with his home region of Catalonia, where a secessionist movement led by radical leftists and Catalan nationalists has tried to force the region to declare independence from the rest of Spain. Borrell believes his fellow Catalans should accept a new devolution settlement and additional powers instead of pursuing a policy that could cause the rapid dissolution of the Spanish state.
Reacting to Borrell’s statement, Scotland’s first minister, and the leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party, Nicola Sturgeon, hailed Borrell’s statement as a rebuke to those who have said Scotland’s potential secession would not necessarily lead to automatic EU membership.
The UK’s Brexit Secretary David Jones was less-than-enthusiastic about Borrell’s assertion that Spain would stand behind a legal move by Scotland to declare independence, saying Borrell’s proclamation amounts to “appalling hypocrisy” considering the Spanish government’s position on the situation in Catalonia.