LONDON - Scotland faces lengthy and difficult negotiations to stay in the European Union if it votes to leave Britain this year and it will end up worse off than at present, British Foreign Secretary William Hague told Scottish leader Alex Salmond in a letter.

Scots will vote in a referendum on September 18 on whether to quit the United Kingdom. In the event of a "Yes" vote, Salmond hopes to agree a "smooth transition" to renewing Scotland's EU membership before it declares independence from London in March 2016.

Britain's main political parties, including Hague's ruling Conservatives, want Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom, but recent opinion polls show supporters of independence catching up on the pro-union camp.

"Scotland's negotiations to join the EU are likely to be complex and long and the outcome would certainly prove less advantageous than the status quo," Hague said in his letter.


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