One of the big questions about Scottish independence is how and when an independent Scotland could re-join the European Union.

This was hotly debated during the 2014 referendum, when it generated more heat than light. The then President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, said on BBC TV that it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible” for Scotland to join the EU. That was just plain wrong.

A lot of things have happened since then, including Brexit. Today, because of Brexit, it would actually be easier for Scotland to join the EU than it was before.

Let’s look first at the time-frame. We don’t know when another independence referendum may be held, but we do know that Nicola Sturgeon wants it to have the consent of the Westminster parliament. That’s sensible. If Scotland were to make a unilateral declaration of independence, it wouldn’t be recognised, either by the EU or by other members of the UN.

Is the 'Spanish veto' still a factor?  No. If Scotland gains independence by a constitutional process, rather than unilaterally, Spain wouldn’t veto it, any more than it blocked seven other countries from joining the EU when they became independent. On this, Brexit actually helps, since Scotland (unlike Spain’s Catalonia) is no longer part of an EU member state.

If Scotland became independent, it could apply for EU membership soon afterwards. How long would the process take? Well, the record for joining the EU is held by Finland, which took two years and nine months from the date of its application to the date of its accession to the EU. Scotland has an advantage over Finland, since it applied EU rules for nearly 50 years. In that way, it would be the best qualified applicant the EU ever had. On the other hand, Scotland would need to create new institutions, such as a national bank and a foreign ministry, in order to function as an independent state and to pass the EU’s membership test, the so-called ‘Copenhagen criteria’.

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Passing the test shouldn’t be difficult. It requires ‘stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities; a functioning market economy; and the ability to take on the obligations of membership’. It’s obvious that Scotland could meet those criteria.

My estimate is that it would take three to four years for Scotland to re-join the EU.

By the way, I know what I’m talking about. I was a member of the team in London that negotiated Britain’s membership of the EC. Later, in Brussels I had a hand in writing and applying the Copenhagen criteria, and I was one of the architects of the enlargement of the EU from 12 to 27 members.

What would need to be negotiated? Not much. Scotland wouldn’t need to ask for an opt-out from the euro or the Schengen passport-free area. Although new members have to accept the principle of joining them, in practice they don’t need to do so unless they wish. Sweden, for example, has never had an opt-out from the euro, but simply prefers not to join. Ireland has never joined Schengen, but maintains a common travel area with the UK. Scotland could expect to do the same.

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Scotland would have to accept the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy. That would be welcomed by many Scottish farmers and fishermen, now that they know - or suspect - what Brexit really means. As a member of the EU, Scotland would have a seat at the table when fisheries quotas are negotiated. In fact, it would have more influence on quotas than it does now.

It wouldn’t be realistic for Scotland to ask for an EU budget rebate, though it could ask for its budget contribution to be the phased in. During the SNP’s campaign in 2014, the currency question was a weak point, and it remains a tricky question – whether to continue with the British pound, or create a Scottish pound. The Scottish government will need to define a clear position on that.

EU member states today are favourable to Scotland re-joining. They know that Scotland wants cooperation, not confrontation, with its European neighbours, and they remember that a majority in Scotland voted to remain in the EU. It was not for nothing that members of the European Parliament linked hands and sang ‘Auld Lang Syne’ at the Parliament’s last session before Brexit.

Let’s have a look finally at the economic consequences of re-joining the EU. Scotland’s financial sector would benefit from regaining full access to the EU. Scottish goods would automatically benefit from free access to the EU market, and from the EU’s trade agreement with the UK.  But that agreement is a ‘hard’ Brexit, with checks on goods at the border, and that would hit Scottish exports to the UK, which are currently 60 percent of its exports. The long-term results are difficult to forecast, but it’s worth recalling that Ireland, which in 1973 sent 55% of its exports to the U.K., now only sends 10%. What’s more, per head of population, Ireland is now wealthier than the UK.

Graham Avery is an independent analyst based in Oxford. He has worked as a public servant in London and in Brussels.