THE longer Scotland is out of the EU the harder it will be to get back in as an independent member, unless the UK sticks with European laws, according to a leading Brussels politician.

Philippe Lamberts, a member of the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group, said it would be more difficult for the country to rejoin the bloc the longer post-Brexit legislation brought in by the UK Government applies to Scotland.

Asked whether he believed an independent Scotland would be welcomed back into the EU, he said: “I guess we would look at that favourably."

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However, he went on to say: “There is a process to become a member of the European Union and of course if Scotland did not deviate from the current EU legislation it would make the task easier to complete membership negotiations.”

He continued: “Scotland will be bound by UK legislation, if UK legislation differs quickly from EU legislation after Brexit then of course the negotiations would need to take place and of course you will have the process of independence and that will take a while in itself. So it’s not like this is going to be over in just a few months ... The more Scotland is deviated from EU membership the longer the process to get back in will last.”

The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she will set out her thinking on a second independence referendum at the end of the withdrawal stage of the Brexit negotiations in the coming weeks.

She has also said she wants more clarity on Brexit and what sort of future relationship the UK will have with the EU.

Lamberts warned it could be up to 10 years before the future relationship between the UK and EU is established.

“If there is no deal ... the atmosphere [between the EU and the UK] will be so poisoned that I do not feel there would be a quick start to negotiating a new trade relationship. The process will be pretty much frozen,” he said.

Asked if May’s withdrawal agreement does goes through the Commons how long the trade negotiations would take, Lamberts replied: “Look at precedents, look at Canada, look at China, it will be a five-to-10-year stretch to get to an agreement. “

There is currently a debate in the SNP over the timing of a second independence referendum. SNP MP Angus MacNeil favours an early vote, while others including MEP Alyn Smith and Andrew Wilson, who headed the party’s Growth Commission, support a longer-term approach.

Smith said last month:”I don’t think we’re ready to press the button on an independence referendum yet, because there are too many moving parts to Brexit.”