Former First Minister Alex Salmond has said that membership of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) would guarantee that an independent Scotland will not be made “relatively poorer by full English Brexit.”
Mr Salmond said that it is “essential” in economic terms to have access to the world’s largest single market, which is available from the European Union but also from EFTA.
He said that while EFTA membership is not available to the UK, it could be secured “quickly and effectively” for an independent Scotland.
Scotland’s former First Minister said this was not really a great departure from the SNP’s independence in Europe position as EFTA membership can be a “prelude” to full European Union membership in the future.
Mr Salmond outlined his thoughts in a speech at the Business for Scotland annual dinner where he said the country is “caught in the Brexit trap” as Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief negotiator for Brexit, will not negotiate with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
He said: “And so we have 18 months of Brexit negotiations and after that perhaps a three-year period of transition to get our ducks in a row. We have to offer something which is doable, feasible and speedily deliverable for the European connections of an independent Scotland.
“So what is necessary for us to secure from Europe? There is only one thing that is essential. There are many things which are nice to have of course, but only one thing that is essential, at least in economics terms, and that is the comparative economic advantage which comes from being part of the world’s largest single market with the many international connections such membership guarantees.
“Along with it and indeed integral to it comes the economic advantage of free movement of people as well as goods and capital, something which is necessary for the future prosperity of this nation.
“We can get this from the European Union, but we can also get it from membership of the European Free Trade Area, which also allows access to the European Economic Area, which can be secured for an independent Scotland quickly and effectively.”
Mr Salmond said that while the four EFTA states of Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland are small, they are in the World Bank top 12 of wealth per head.
He said that EFTA membership is not available to the UK even if the Government wanted it and that although Iceland would be keen on UK membership of EFTA, Norway almost certainly would not.
Mr Salmond said: “There are no such problems for an independent Scotland and because of that, this should be our proposition to take to the people. In a political sea of uncertainty, we would have the advantage of putting forward a defined proposition – an independent Scotland as a member EFTA with all the economic advantages that confers.
” Independence does not in itself guarantee prosperity. It is the wisdom of the policies pursued which does that.
“However, an independent Scotland as a member of EFTA does guarantee that we will not be made relatively poorer by full English Brexit.”