Scottish government leader urges UK to stick to EU standards

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Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks during an event 'Scotland's European Future after Brexit' at the European Policy Center in Brussels, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, Pool)

BRUSSELS – The leader of Scotland's government warned Monday that Britain would pay a “heavy cost" if it abandons European Union rules and standards after a post-Brexit transition period expires at the end of the year.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also reiterated her desire for a referendum to win Scotland's independence from the U.K. and the possibility to join the EU as a member country.

During a visit to Brussels that including meeting with the EU's chief negotiator, Sturgeon said that deciding not to follow the bloc's complete rule book would leave the U.K. with reduced access to its single 27-nation market.

“As the EU continually makes clear, the more we diverge from EU standards, the less access we will have to the single market," she said. “The right to diverge will come at a cost, a very heavy cost, in fact in my view, a cost that is too heavy."

Britain departed the EU on Jan. 31 but is continuing to follow EU regulations at least until the end of the year. During the transition period, the British government and EU leaders will try to negotiate a free trade deal and agreements covering other areas.

Britain wants the trade agreement to cover goods and services and exclude almost all tariffs. However, British Prime minister Boris Johnson has been adamant that the U.K. won't keep following all of the EU's regulations. To strike deals with other countries, Johnson wants the flexibility to subscribe to varying standards for areas such as competition, state aid and or the environment.

But Sturgeon said the European Union wants guarantees Britain “will not undercut the EU by adopting lower standards."