Photo credit: Flickr
"Very, very difficult". That's the verdict from Jean-Claude Juncker on British Prime Minister Theresa May's plans for disentangling the UK from the European Union. President of the European Council Donald Tusk went further, saying "It must be made crystal clear that the disintegration of the European Union will not lead to the restoration of some mythical, full sovereignty of its member states, but to their real and factual dependence on the great superpowers: the United States, Russia and China."
Some predicted the UK leaving the EU would be the chip that provoked a fatal fracture, but this has thus far proved untrue. For EU politicians, it is quite clear what will happen: May's much-vaunted 'hard Brexit' will only make life harder for the British. While no clear-eyed observer is particularly looking forward to the UK turning its back on Europe, it is looking like Scotland in particular will be in an invidious position once Westminster cuts the cord.
Indeed, the ugly realities of Brexit seem bound to reignite a furore that has only scarcely died down since the last Scottish independence referendum. Against the backdrop of Scottish voters wanting to stay in the EU, the answer to a new referendum is more likely to be a resounding 'yes'. Even if support for independence hasn't moved much since June's Brexit vote, the disastrous path May has embarked upon will almost certainly end up changing a lot of minds.
With that in mind, Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon is making clear that she is prepared to fight for independence and broker a deal that would allow Scotland to remain part of the EU single market, even if the rest of the UK left. For EU, this is something of a gift: in the tense discussions to come, Scotland is shaping up to be a very powerful chip which Brussels could use against May. Unfortunately for average Scots, their newfound position on the negotiating table is not going to do people in Edinburgh or Glasglow any favours.
For proof that Brussels plans on wielding Holyrood to inflict damage on Whitehall, look no further than Esteban Gonzalez Pons. The leader of Spain's biggest MEPs group has made the EU's policy clear, saying: "If once the UK leaves and Scotland decides to leave the UK, then you can join the queue after Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Turkey, to join the EU."
Needless to say, this is a kick in the teeth for Scotland, a country that already 100% integrated with the EU's common market and absorbed the entire acquis communautaire, not to mention respecting all of the rules and regulations of the EU.
The idea of relegating Scotland to the back of the queue becomes even more distressing when you look at who Pons puts in front: Montenegro, a mafia state whose former Prime minister Milo Djukanovic had the dubious honour of being named 'person of the year' by the Organised Crime and Corruption Project in light of 'achievements' as diverse as supporting organised crime and cigarette smuggling, stifling the press and supporting electoral fraud, especially in last year's elections. Even if Djukanovic stepped down in October 2016, a trusted confidante and former head of intelligence now heads the government, much to the chagrin of the opposition which refused to recognize the legitimacy of the new cabinet.
Beyond Montenegro, the status of the other Balkan EU candidates is not much prettier. In Serbia, there are growing fears of another Balkan war as relations between Serbs and Kosovar Albanians become increasingly fraught. Bosnia continues to be riveted by internal tensions between its ethnic groups, as Republika Srpska gets increasingly bullish about its desire for secession and ups the ante with deliberately antagonistic martial parades and referendums.
Stunningly, Pons still includes Turkey, where the egomaniacal Erdogan's 'non-EU' values include harassing and jailing opposition leaders and persecuting journalists. In the time-honoured fashion of leaders who have no intention of relinquishing power, he is also pushing through legislation that will dramatically alter his country's system of government and move Turkey ever nearer to a dictatorship.
With the EU's single-minded focus on making the UK suffer on its way out, all of these states are somehow judged more worthy of a place in the Union than a post-Brexit Scotland, despite their deep dysfunctions and palpable failures to adhere to EU values.
Not that the Scots will be the only ones hurting. Just in the City, British firms losing their financial passports could lead to an exodus of financial services businesses, with HSBC and Ernst and Young having already confirmed they're likely to take their operations elsewhere. Adding insult to injury, Bremainers and Brexiteers across the UK will have to pay for the privilege of exiting Europe with an invoice exceeding $40bn to settle all current financial commitments to EU policies.
The exit bill is bad enough, but the worst is still to come. Once Article 50 is invoked and ratified, the free trade fantasyland the Brexit campaign hawked as an antidote for European bureaucratic morass will quickly be revealed as a farce. As the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has pointed out, 80% of all trade actually takes place in global value chains (GVCs). Simply put, the old world of sovereign nations trading finished products and negotiating import tariffs, which was supposed to provide a ticket to future British prosperity, no longer exists. So much for Global Britain.
Of course, MEPs like Pons are not making life difficult out of pure spite. With the independence movement in Catalonia gaining ground, no Spanish politician outside of Barcelona is ever going to come out in support of Scottish independence, let alone Scotland's separate entry into the European Union. To the people of Scotland, though, that comes as little solace: they might not have voted for Brexit, but they'll likely have to pay the heaviest price.