AN independent Scotland would likely be welcome in the European Economic Area, according to a leading academic based in Norway.

Professor Christophe Hillion, from the Centre for European Law at Oslo University, said there were fears the UK Government would seek to neg-otiate opt-outs and preconditions from EEA rules – such as free movement of people – as part of any future application to join.

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He said such moves would “rock the boat” and risk making the arrangement “dysfunctional” for the three non EU members of the EEA - Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein.

Hillion said he did not envisage major hurdles for an independent Scotland becoming a member of the European Free Trade Agreement as Scotland supported the benefits of single market participation.

“What’s important is the general atmosphere in which the application to become an EEA state is made,” he told The National.

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“I have seen some discussions among the soft Brexiteers about the UK participating in the EEA but some of these discussions revolved around the questions of how to use the possible derogations [exemptions] that the EEA agreement foresee.

“Starting a discussion about possible participation in the EEA by discussing how to derogate from its obligations would be a bad starting point.”

He added: “If an independent Scotland is interested in being a member of the EEA it is important to make the point that EEA is about integration. It’s about participating fully in the internal market, without trying to find a way of not being bound by its obligations.

“There is some level of scepticism about UK accession to the EEA as it would basically rock the boat and make the EEA quite dysfunctional at the expense of the three smaller EFTA states.

“It could be very different in the case of Scotland – not simply because Scotland is a smaller country – but because a majority in Scotland voted Remain and thus to be part of the single market. So the general attitude and circumstances are different between where the UK is coming from and where Scotland is coming from.”

Hillion is to speak to MSPs at Holyrood tomorrow evening on how the EEA option of single market access without EU membership works for Norway. He will also outline the impact of Brexit on the three EFTA members who are part of the single market via the EEA agreement.

The event is being organised by the think tank Nordic Horizons.

Lesley Riddoch, its director, and columnist for The National, said: “The impact of Brexit on small nations with indirect single market access has been ignored so far.

“As one of Europe’s leading legal experts in the structures of the European Union we hope Christophe will rectify that and describe how access to the single market via the EEA “halfway house” works in Norway – the pros and the cons.

“It’s an option the Scottish Government is also considering as it tries to plan Scotland’s post-Brexit future.”

Ivan McKee, the SNP MSP who is sponsoring the event, said: “I’m delighted to be hosting Nordic Horizons’ timely debate. There’s so much we can learn from other small, successful countries – and important to know there are options other than hard Brexit”.

EFTA membership has been put forward as an option to consider for an independent Scotland, most recently by the SNP MP Pete Wishart who said it could either be a step on the way to EU membership or a lasting arrangement.