My position on leaving the EU is clear, as is the way I believe we should go about it. The new relationship I propose we negotiate to facilitate our “soft landing” in a phased secession from political and judicial union with the EU is both realistic and pragmatic. Crucially, it is highly likely to align with the analysis and subsequent actions of the Civil Service and Government in the event of a vote to leave.
I think we should retain Single Market access, which means free movement of people continues also. This secures the economy and de-risks Brexit; it calms and reassures the markets and renders the business environment unchanged. Like most newly declared independent countries we would retain/repatriate the whole body of EU law in the first instance. This is just how it’s done; it facilitates negotiations and minimises disruption by avoiding unpicking treaties and opening up a veritable Pandora’s box of complications. It gives us time after the dust has settled to analyse the body of law at our leisure.
The most optimal solution is to rejoin the European Free Trade Association and trade with EU Member States via the European Economic Area. I detail this further in the Market Solution proposal.
Leave campaigners are foolishly and needlessly tying themselves up into knots over our trading arrangements and making themselves into punching bags for the Remain campaign. Once one insists that we should pull out of the Single Market one is left with inadequate answers to the questions regarding:
- The nature of our hypothetical trade deal
- Why the EU would give us a good deal when we leave
- How long it would take to negotiate said deal
These are perfectly reasonable questions with clear answers. The nature of the deal would be a free trade agreement that would not come close to replicating the benefits of the Single Market. This isn’t just about paying no tariffs; it’s about regulatory convergence, mutual recognition of standards, the removal of customs barriers and much more. The Single Market is a complex Regional Trade Agreement and as such the benefits are not going to be recreated through a Free Trade Agreement.
Why would the EU give us a good deal when leave? When you have leave campaigners asserting that we can just whip up a bespoke FTA in no time and the EU would have to agree because they need us and we’re the fifth largest economy etc etc this is a pertinent question. The truth is that the EU will not offer us a special, unique deal better than an existing model in secession negotiations, though i’m certain hypothetically it would be willing to open up negotiations to a new FTA of some kind, but as I said an FTA will not replicate the benefits of the Single Market.
How long would it take to negotiate said deal? Concluding the arrangement would likely take a minimum of four years, and could very well drag on for longer. Evidence for this can been seen in every trade agreement the EU has ever undertaken. This is due entirely to the basic fact of how complicated concluding such an agreement is, rather than any unwillingness or deliberate unhelpfulness on behalf of the EU.
Too many Leave campaigners are dismissing this realistic analysis, thereby harming the cause and leaving themselves open to justified criticism. The Government however does understand this; hence why the number one priority will be to retain access to the Single Market. This reality is emphasised with every warning of the economic doom that they say will result from leaving the Market.
The question is then often posed as to why the EU Member States would allow us to retain Single Market Access. The fact that it would be a mutually beneficial arrangement economically and politically isn’t enough to counter the argument that the embittered EU would look to make an example of us. This is based on a strange assumption of the EU being malevolent in nature and liable to act rashly and spitefully if we leave.
Well, it is wrong when eurosceptics seek to portray the EU as wholly bad, especially when they also assert that the EU will jump at the chance to strike a deal with us. But neither is it a strong argument for remainers to imply that after an expression of democratic will, the EU would look to risk trade and cause huge political upheaval as pay back.
If the EU is anything, it is a rules based organisation and conducting re-negotiations in “good faith” is a principle of international law. Negotiations based on petulance and “punishment beatings” are a violation of EU and international law, it is simply beyond the realm of practical politics.
What the EU has to gain in destroying its own reputation in the eyes of the world and driving the whole of Europe into recession by breaking international law and purposefully tearing up beneficial trade agreement like a hot tempered child, has yet to be explained to me in a sensible and credible way.
We are already a contracting party to the EEA agreement and all of the technical measures are in place for the uninterrupted continuation of our membership. There is nothing in the EEA Agreement or any EU treaty that stipulates that leaving the European Union automatically means leaving the EEA. Therefore, this will be a matter of pragmatic political talks. It is clear however that any baffling attempt to force the issue would end up in prolonged wrangling in the courts; it would be a mutually destructive act with absolutely no benefits gained.
The EU will enter into negotiations in good faith and the spirit of cooperation, thereby upholding its own laws and values. A priority in the negotiations will be continuity of Single Market access; it’s what the UK government will want, it’s what remaining Member States will want, and its most certainly what multinational businesses will be calling for. With so much riding on it, including the prevention of a recession in the UK and Europe; it would be politically impossible to have it any other way.
There are those suggesting that we should sever ties with the EU in a clean break and also leave the Single Market. Such ideas have no basis in reality. We cannot untangle forty years of integration in one fell swoop and any attempt to do so would be disastrous. The Government knows this. A “hard landing” worst case scenario Brexit would be disastrous for Britain and the EU, therefore preventing this will be at the heart of negotiations.
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty