The referendum on Britain’s EU membership will not settle its relationship with Europe, no matter which way the vote goes, a senior Scottish National Party (SNP) MP told consuls.
Speaking at a Consular Corps meeting, the leader of the SNP in the House of Commons, Angus Robertson MP, warned that the ‘Project Fear’ tactic employed by the Remain camp would unleash a “tsunami” of political forces, that could “[store] up massive problems for the future” of Britain’s relationship with the EU.
Even if Britain voted to remain in the EU, the anger and anti-European feeling stirred up in the Leave camp would make future relations with the EU very difficult, he warned: “It would be very difficult for there to be a treaty change in future in Britain, given the strength of Eurosceptic opinion.”
The Moray MP – along with all SNP MPs and MSPs – is campaiging for the UK to remain in the EU, but was disappointed that the Remain campaign was failing to make the positive case for Europe. He also lamented the fact that the campaign was waging an “air war” on television, rather than a grassroots “ground war”.
Robertson added there would be “consequences” if the majority in the UK voted to leave the EU, while in Scotland the majority voted to remain. “Almost inevitably I believe there will be another referendum on Scottish Independence,” he said, adding that these were not the circumstances under which he would like Scotland to achieve independence.
Challenging the European diplomats in the audience, he said: “[Scotland is] a European Nation. [If] we voted to stay, and for the next two years while you are negotiating with the UK about it wanting to leave, we are probably going to start proceedings about how we can stay. I urge you to think about that. This has never been done before – no country has sought to leave and a part of the state sought to remain. There is no precedent.”
He added that the British civil service was unprepared for the scale of the undertaking should Britain vote to leave. “There is no Plan B. The people in the civil service are just hoping they don’t have to do it. It would be a massive undertaking for the better part of a decade.”
With the polls too close to call, turnout would be key in deciding the referendum, he said. But either way, he predicted that the EU referendum would likely trigger an upheaval in the British political landscape as the Scottish independence referendum did for Scotland, where the SNP virtually wiped out the other parties. “Scottish politics is diverging massively from UK politics. Our politics is in quite a different orbit, going around a different sun,” he said, urging those nations who did not have a consulate in Scotland to consider setting one up.
“And maybe one day you can upgrade to an embassy…” he concluded with a smile.