THE European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt has told MPs that it is a “fact” that an independent Scotland could join the EU after Brexit.

The former Belgian Prime Minister was up in front of the Commons Home Affairs Committee when Moray’s Tory MP Douglas Ross tried to trip him up over Scottish independence.

READ MORE: WATCH: Top EU official says it’s a FACT Scotland could easily join the EU

Ross asked the MEP if he was still stood by comments made in September 2016 when he said “if Scotland decides to leave the UK to be an independent state and they decide to be part of the EU I think there is no big obstacle to do that”.

“That’s a fact. That’s a simple fact,” Verhofstadt told the Committee.

“You don’t think that’s an obstacle for them to simply rejoin?” Ross questioned.

Verhofstadt shut him down: “I think the problem isn’t that. The problem is how we can find a close relationship between the UK and the EU, and during that discussion we will not do anything that is an interference in the constitutional order of the UK. We are going to avoid that. That’s not our task.”

Earlier, in the day, at the Brexit select committee, and responding to the SNP’s Joanna Cherry, Verhofstadt said the Europeans were very aware that Scotland had voted to remain, but said the current set up of the UK meant Scotland was obliged to follow Britain out.

He also said he thought the UK would find support in Europe if it stayed in the single market and customs union. “I think there is no opposition from the European side if that proposal comes to Brussels,” he said.

“That would solve the Northern Ireland border problem as well wouldn’t it?” Cherry asked.

“Exactly,” the Belgian replied. “There will be no objection by the European side if the UK Government is going in such a direction.”

Verhofstadt had also criticised the Tory Government’s plans for a time-limited, temporary customs backstop as “not acceptable”.

The former Belgian Prime Minister said he was “puzzled” by the proposal that would, in the event of the UK being unable to agree a trade deal with Brussels, see Britain match EU trade tariffs and regulations “temporarily” after Brexit day in March 2019 but only until 2021.

He told MPs: “I have never seen a backstop that is used for one year and then it disappears.”

The permanence of the arrangement caused a stooshie in cabinet earlier this month, with Brexit secretary David Davis threatening to resign unless the arrangement was limited.

Initially the Prime Minister had wanted it open ended, but Davis, and the Brexiteers were fearful this would become the permanent position.

The EU had originally proposed a backstop that would see the island of Ireland keep the same regulations and tariffs as the rest of Europe. The Tories said this effectively plonked a border in the middle of the Irish sea and that would simply not do.

The backstop is supposed to be a contingency plan, to be used if all else fails, but with little agreement in cabinet over the two options the UK has suggested to replace its membership of the customs union, it is becoming increasingly more likely.

“A backstop is a fall-back position that you have in your pocket and you hope that you have never to use it. That is a backstop, in my opinion,” Verhofstadt told the MPs.

Verhofstadt said that ending the backstop in 2021 would mean customs authorities would have to apply three different systems in three years, which was something to “avoid absolutely”.

He said he was looking forward to the government’s White Paper, due to set out the position on leaving the EU. “I think that is it still possible to have for October/November an agreement on the political declaration. For that we need to speed up, certainly the negotiations in the coming months,” he said.