Scotland's First Minister has vowed to press on with attempts to ensure Scotland stays in the EU after its leaders said membership was a UK matter, not one for the bloc.
Nicola Sturgeon said she did not underestimate the challenge ahead after the EU President, Spain’s Prime Minister and France’s President dealt a blow to her plans to negotiate continued membership.
After a long day of meeting EU leaders, she said: “I don’t think its particularly surprising … to hear starting positions from a country like Spain. Nothing I’ve heard today has surprised me.
“I would say that we are at an early stage in this process. The substance of what I have read from the acting prime minister of Spain (that) this is a UK, as a member state, negotiation with the EUÂ – I absolutely respect that.
“As I’ve said, what I’m seeking to do … once the UK’s negotiation with the EU gets underway… (is to make sure) all the options are considered and Scotland’s interests are represented.
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“For me, as First Minister, part of that process is to make sure that Scotland’s voice is heard within the UK process. I don’t underestimate the challenge we face.”
Before that meeting EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had said that Scotland had “won a right to be heard” in Brussels.
But he appeared to scotch Scottish hopes of negotiating a separate deal to stay in Europe, when he said neither he nor European Council president Donald Tusk would interfere in internal British politics.
He said: “I will listen carefully to what the First Minister will tell me, but we don’t have the intention – neither Donald nor myself – to interfere in the British process. That is not our duty and not our job.”
Meanwhile Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy told reporters in Brussels: “If the United Kingdom leaves, so does Scotland.”
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He added: “The Spanish government… is against negotiating with anyone other than the government of the United Kingdom, and the rest are internal problems between the UK and the others (the countries that are part of the UK).
“I’m radically against it, the treaties are radically against it, and I’m sure everybody is against this.
“Therefore, if the United Kingdom leaves, during the negotiation or whenever it leaves, Scotland also leaves the EU institutions.”
That point of view was echoed by French president Francois Hollande, who said: “The negotiations will be conducted with the United Kingdom, not with a part of the United Kingdom.”
Sky’s Robert Nisbet says that the stance of many EU countries is being shaped by their fears that some other countries could split if it appears to approve of Scotland’s independence.
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Spain is facing a threat to break away by the region of Catalonia.
MSPs have given Ms Sturgeon a “mandate” to hold discussions with EU institutions, as well as the UK Government and other devolved nations.
She has said that “everything must be on the table to protect Scotland’s place in Europe” after the vote in which the UK chose to leave the EU, but a majority of Scots voted to stay.
Earlier, the European Union was told to “Wake up and smell the coffee” after Britain voted to leave the bloc.
The President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite told reporters as she arrived for the EU summit on Wednesday morning: “Of course this morning we all need to wake up and smell the coffee, and the coffee will be discussions on our future.”
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David Cameron warned fellow EU leaders over dinner on Tuesday that immigration was a key factor behind last week’s Brexit vote.
But after chairing the informal session of the 27 national leaders, meeting without the UK for the first time, Mr Tusk and Mr JunckerÂ stressed they would not give ground on free movement.
On a more positive note, French President Francois Hollande said it would make “no sense” to scrap France’s bilateral border agreement with the UK after Brexit.
In addition, he said defence and energy agreements with Britain such as the Hinkley Point nuclear power project in southern England would remain in place.