I – The Market Solution:
A soft landing

Part I of V

In seeking to achieve a Leave vote in the EU referendum there are two essential facts that campaigners need to understand and accept if they are to contribute to victory. First of all, that leaving the European Union is a process (a complex one at that) not an event. It will take time to separate ourselves and exploit our independence and it will necessarily be done in transitional stages because you cannot untangle forty years of integration in one fell swoop.

The second is that the initial stage of our secession must guarantee our economic security, that is to say we need a “soft landing”. This is obviously to protect our economy and prevent recession, but it is also absolutely necessary to de-risk the Leave proposition and make the public feel it is a choice that they can make safely. Once in the voting booth the majority of people will think pragmatically and any high ideals of democracy and self-determination will be overruled by the risk factor, hence why an economically neutral exit is essential for winning, as well being a good thing in itself.

With all of this in mind I propose a process of staged separation and urge people to see this for what it is, the United Kingdom becoming a newly independent nation state, and realise that this would be in many ways no different to the situation de-colonised countries found themselves in after seceding from an empire. Any expectance of a sudden clean break is totally unrealistic and even if it could be achieved it would be undesirable and chaotic. Therefore the Leave vote in the referendum, and the subsequent Article 50 notification, will the beginning of a process in which the United Kingdom leaves the EU, regains its independence and begins to re-engage with the world.

The most optimal (but not only) option for the initial, interim stage of the process is to rejoin the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and trade with the EU member states through the European Economic area (EEA) – this is popularly known as the “Norway option” but it is more accurate to call it the “market solution”.

As is routine for newly independent nation states, we would repatriate the entire body of EU law. This proposal, actually an inevitable part of the withdrawal process, will be objected to by those keen for a “big bang” immediate sever of ties. Their concerns are based on profound ignorance and their desire for an immediate clean break is a political impossibility. Repatriating the entire body of EU law guarantees minimal disruption and allows for the necessary time to be taken for proper scrutiny of the UK statute book and a considered review before repealing undesirable legislation in due course.

In many cases, immediate separation – or indeed eventual separation – of shared administrative and political activities is undesirable or impossible, at least in the short term. These include:

  • Horizon 2020
  • The Single European Sky
  • The European Space Programme
  • Shared customs operations
  • sanitary and phytosanitary controls
  • Anti-dumping measures
  • Maritime surveillance

It will also include certain police and criminal justice measures, the raft of which will be reviewed along with the rest of the body of law. Many such issues are best dealt with on a multi-national cooperative basis and there is no benefit to going it alone.

The idea is to lay the stable foundations necessary for the UK to exploit its independence and reap the benefits over the long term – for in creating a vision for our country we must think of the next 10, 50 and 100 years, not just the immediate future – and plan a smooth and economically secure transition into the post-EU world.

The basic framework of the market solution could be in place within two years of the commencement of Article 50 negotiations.  The relationship between the current EFTA/EEA members and the EU provides a model on which we can begin to design the initial stage of the UK’s new relationship with the EU, it is in a sense an “off the shelf solution”.

This is about properly redefining our relationship with EU member states. We will continue to travel alongside our neighbours and allies in the EU, but we will be on different paths that better suit our different needs and desires.


Ben is the Conservatives for Liberty Web Editor and a Brexit campaigner.  He blogs at The Sceptic Isle. Follow him on Twitter: @TheScepticIsle

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The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty