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Brexiteers should scale back their expectations.


While the likes of Ukip have been forging a populist and emotive view of Britain outside of the EU without much in the way of detail, a selection of ‘pro-market’ researchers and economists have taken a more scientific approach to studying and recommending the UK’s best post-brexit options.

In each case they appear to be arriving at very similar conclusions – a common Brexit ‘plan’.The-EU-Referendum-Live-Poll-banner-1

You won’t hear about this plan from the Leave campaign for a number of reasons – not least because most prominent Leave campaigners don’t like it very much. They don’t like it because it challenges a number of their key assumptions, promises, and the seemingly non-negotiable ambitions of the prevailing ‘Leave’ rhetoric.

So what are they saying?

In each case, their proposals put some of the most popular Brexit ambitions – such as control over immigration and the ‘bonfire’ of red tape – on the back burner, and instead prioritises trading opportunity and the reduction of economic risk and uncertainty.

They say it involves the UK leaving the EU via the ‘approved method’, staying a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) but also continuing the UK’s engagement with the EU via membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

Through this it would retain current levels of access and participation in the single market – a major step towards safeguarding trade, jobs, finance, investment, and reducing ‘uncertainty’ to a minimum.

It’s about as close to being a member of the EU without actually being a member of the EU – as it is possible to be.

“It’s about as close to being a member of the EU without actually being a member of the EU – as it is possible to be.”

This EFTA/EEA option offers a couple of quick ‘wins’, such as taking back responsibility for fisheries and agricultural policy, the opportunity to pursue trade agreements with other nations of the world, a reduction in EU contributions and repatriation of powers in several key areas. It’s also a point from which the UK can start to explore its new existence outside the EU… whilst simultaneously keeping the ‘losses’ associated with EU withdrawal to a minimum.

You may have heard this called “the Norway option”, and it being dismissed as “all pay and no say” – the UK would have to accept all the EU rules with no influence over them. Its advocates however present some compelling evidence to suggest that that’s not actually the case.The-EU-Referendum-Briefing-banner-1

Of course, like all options (including remaining in the EU) it’s not without its drawbacks… the UK would have to continue to accept free movement of people, the UK would have to continue to ‘pay into’ the EU, take on a significant proportion of EU legislation, and accept rulings from the EFTA court . It couldn’t be described as a “clean break” – but it doesn’t necessarily need to be (and probably won’t be) the end destination itself.

To explain its advantages and disadvantages, here is a quick reference table created by the Adam Smith Institute outlining what EEA membership involves compared to continued EU membership. It should be noted that the author advocates the EEA option for the UK, post-Brexit.

Source: Adam Smith Institute / Roland Smith "The case for the EEA option: Evolution not Revolution"

Source: Adam Smith Institute / Roland Smith “The case for the EEA option


But what’s the most likely Brexit outcome?

A well considered plan for Brexit is all very well, but what is actually the most likely outcome post-Brexit?

When you look at the forces in play, the EEA/EFTA option also appears to be the most likely path that a post-Brexit UK would take.

How so?  Consider these points:

  1. It’s the only option that could feasibly be completed within the two year time window afforded by the Article 50 withdrawal process.
  2. It represents the ‘safest’ option – in terms of maintaining existing UK/EU trade, safeguarding related jobs, foreign direct investment, financial services etc.
  3. For the same reason it’s the option that creates the shortest and least extreme period of uncertainty.
  4. It’s the only option that stands any chance of reuniting a divided and small majority parliamentary Conservative party – well over 50% of which will have voted to remain.
  5. It would offer the Labour party some consolation by maintaining single market protections for workers rights – its primary argument for remaining in the EU.
  6. It’s the only option that would get past a heavily Remain-centric House of Commons
  7. It’s the only option that the civil service would likely be recommending to ministers.
  8. It’s the only option that confronts just how deeply integrated the UK is with the EU and that this will take time and care to address.
  9. It’s the only option with which the Government (and PM?) could save face and distance themselves from the dire predictions they made throughout a staunchly pro-EU / anti-Brexit campaign.
  10. It’s the only option which the EU could readily agree to, sufficiently calming markets, protecting the interests of its member states and institutions.
  11. The Vote Leave campaign won’t decide what happens.
  12. The British public won’t decide what happens.

In short, the EEA/EFTA option will win out because it rescues reputations, relationships, economics and politics.The-EU-Referendum-Predictions-banner-1

“In short, the EEA/EFTA option will win out because it rescues reputations, relationships, economics and politics.”

The most aggrieved group are likely to be those on the extremes of the debate – such as those that thought they were voting (perhaps understandably) for instant immigration controls, or a complete repatriation of law-making supremacy.

There may well be claims of a “stitch up” but nowhere does ‘immigration’ appear on the ballot paper – a Brexit mandate is simply an instruction to the Government to run the country outside of the EU. Like any Government it will take decisions that it believes is best for the country as a whole – and invariably any path they take will please some people and upset others.

Like most things, Brexit would be a compromise.

Disagree? You have more than 140 characters to say why below…


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10 Comments on "Brexiteers should scale back their expectations."

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Gary Robinson
Guest
4 years 10 months ago

An interesting article. But don’t forget that the Article 50 period can be extended to give extra negotiating time. And as Dan Hannnan MEP says, “To summarize then, Norway gets a better deal than Britain currently does, and Switzerland a better deal than Norway. But a post-EU Britain, with 65 million to Switzerland’s eight and Norway’s five, should expect something better yet.” http://www.eu-facts.org.uk/2016/04/26/efta-4-uk-why-joining-the-european-free-trade-association-would-be-better-for-the-uk-than-eu-membership/

Andrew
Member
4 years 10 months ago
Delors offered the EFTA states a European Economic Space with joint EFTA-EC decision-making institutions. When these institutions failed to materialise, Sweden, Finland, Austria, Switzerland and Norway all applied to join the Community, rather than remain subject, on the EFTA side of the EEA Agreement, to both the existing and unknown future rules of the single market, but without any vote on their adoption. As the Swiss said in October 1991: ‘It is a fact that the EEA treaty does not respect the fundamental of equality between parties….’ (http://bit.ly/1Ul9uOZ) It is important to realise that the EU legislation which is considered… Read more »
Bill
Guest
Bill
4 years 10 months ago

“5.It would offer the Labour party some consolation by maintaining single market protections for workers rights – its primary argument for remaining in the EU.”

Are the Labour party saying that they would not be able to provide protection for workers rights if they were to be re-elected, or are they admitting that they are unlikely ever to get back in power?

Luke
Member
4 years 10 months ago

Well they obviously believe the EU to be best guardian of those rights… i.e. keep them out of the reach of the Tories when Labour aren’t in power. It definitely “feels like” the only pro-EU angle that Corbyn could credibly take, given his long-maintained opposition to EU membership.

David
Member
4 years 10 months ago

we have no say in the eu as it is this is about our very identity as a nation .we will not be ruled by unelected people from another country

Mr McGoo
Guest
Mr McGoo
4 years 10 months ago

You do realise you can vote in EU elections you wonk? Typical Brexit stupidity…

Hugo Wilson
Guest
4 years 11 months ago

Thank you for a very sound and unbiased article , this would have been the sensible option to put on the referendum as in or out is way too limited , of course no one has mentioned the fact that in the two years after brexit we will have to negotiate hard with the E.U and this seems like an eminently sensible option in order to maintain what relationship we have left.

Alesia Broad
Guest
4 years 11 months ago

For me it doesn’t matter what happens after Brexit, even if I lost everything I would still vote OUT! You can’t put a price on FREEDOM!!

Douglas Prewer
Guest
Douglas Prewer
4 years 11 months ago

No disagree, instant divorce no questions. If the EU wants to play hard ball then the saying ” do to them what they do to you” comes to mind.

Gail Vickery
Guest
Gail Vickery
4 years 11 months ago
Absolutely agree with this article! What we need is the safest and quickest way to sign the secession document within the two year window offered by Article 50!! Short-term pain for Long-term gain!!! After the secession is safely agreed and signed, only then can we start to pursue our own British Agenda! The alternative of failing to Brexit, and being submerged by an increasingly pro EU agenda is too awful to contemplate! Come on all you undecided voters, do some research, read all you can about the true workings and problems of the EU, and do the sensible and patriotic… Read more »
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