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The Norway option would capture the true essence of Brexit
Hardliners are wrong to dismiss the model out of hand
by George Yarrow / January 3, 2019
The EEA option, i.e. continuing participation in the European Economic Area Agreement (EEAA) on terms equivalent to those of Norway, is frequently dismissed as a “second best” Brexit option. As the nearest competitor to the favoured “first-best” options of enthusiasts for hard Brexit or for Remain it naturally gets trashed from both ends of the spectrum. It does though have very considerable merits, which for me make it first-best by a significant margin. Here’s why.
First, it directly addresses the underlying problem in all this: a widespread domestic aversion to the process of political integration to which the EU is, and always has been, committed. It does so in a highly focused way that avoids major collateral damage to the economy. Taken together, these characteristics mean that it’s the only Brexit option that is well aligned with best-practice policy-making principles.
The EEA option holds on to the economic parts of the EU acquis that sustain the single market—the aspect of the EU that is widely regarded as its most successful feature—whilst dispensing with the more political parts. Wheat and chaff are separated and the former is retained. Retained is the right word here, because the UK is already a contracting party to the EEAA.
In short, there is no need to abandon an existing trade and economic cooperation agreement (the EEAA), which meets the prime minister’s “deep and special” criteria, in order to resolve a problematic divergence in political aims and priorities.
The EEAA is an international Treaty and, as the Attorney General explained to the cabinet in relation to the infamous Irish “backstop,” such Treaties endure indefinitely, until terminated by actions in conformity with international law. No such terminating steps having been taken, the Agreement will now necessarily live on post-Brexit, for the “transition period” at least.
The EU-UK withdrawal agreement anticipates this—it is implicit, though unadvertised, in the footnote to the WA’s Article129(1)—but it leaves most powers of decision with the EU institutions. That is a deviation from Norwegian terms of EEA membership and represents an unnecessary surrender of sovereignty. It could be remedied by a simple amendment to the WA.
In responding to the underlying issue (divergence in attitudes to political integration), the EEA option is almost, but not quite,a bull’s eye: the UK would probably like also to hang on to tariff-free trade in agri-foods and fisheries, i.e. to products that are not covered by the EEAA. That could however be remedied by a 21-month standstill agreement in these areas (as currently envisaged in the WA) whilst a new EU-UK protocol to the EEAA was negotiated. A similar approach could also be applied to customs arrangements, if required.
The main criticisms of the EEA Option are that (a) it’s BRINO or “Brexit in name only,” (b) it would entail large contributions to the EU budget,(c) the UK would be a “rule-taker” (a “vassal state”), and (d) it does nothing to change the position on free movement of workers/persons. All are mendacious.
In relation to BRINO, cessation of UK participation in the EU political integration project is, quite manifestly, a big step to take. It is the very heart of Brexit.
Concerning financial contributions, the mandatory contribution to the EU budget would be zero. The EU has no power to tax a fully sovereign Norway, though the countrypaysfor participation in certain EU programmesof its own choosing.
In relation to rule-taking, the EEA option would sustain the UK position as one of the three, rule-making superpowers in Europe. It is the WA (in its existing form) that would create “vassalage,” for an indefinite period.
The rationale for the first of these statements lies in the rule-making structure. The centre of rule-making power is the European Commission and EEA status provides for direct Norwegian participation in its work (“decision shaping”). It’s true that voting rights are lost (as they will be under all Brexit options), but in reality voting settles very little. In compensation for the loss Norway et al get three, privileged channels of influence not available to EU member states: (i) they can declare EU legislation to be not EEA-relevant, (ii) they can seek adjustments and amendments to EU legislation, up to replacing it with “equivalent” regulation (see EEAA Art 102) and (iii) ultimately, each can decline to legislate to make new EEA directives and regulations applicable in its own jurisdiction (“rights of reservation”). That is reasonable compensation for a modest loss.
Finally, the EEA option would see decision-making responsibilities for limitations on free movement transferred from the EU to the UK. Currently the EU is the ultimate arbiter on this point, and decides which limitations are permissible and which are not. In the EEA, the general principle of free movement would remain in force. But British scope for limitations in certain circumstances would be increased, reflecting the fact that the EEAA is a trade and economic cooperation agreement, not a quasi-constitutional document like the Treaty of Lisbon.
The government’s approach to the EEA option is therefore something of a mystery. Until 23rd June 2016, no UK government enjoyed the possibility of unbundling the economic policy aspects of the EU Treaties (something most would have dearly liked to be able to do), yet, when the opportunity came in consequence of the referendum result, a red-line was quickly put through the EEA without any serious thought whatsoever.
That was a mistake, but it can still be corrected, potentially very quickly, by a declaration that the UK reserves its EEAA Treaty rights and intends to continue to be a fully participating member of the EEA on terms that, from Brexit Day onwards, will respect its status as a non-EU contracting party. For its part, parliament can assist by withholding its consent to any proposals that do not reflect such an intention.
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With an avg. 1.2M voters per MEP & Britain with 16% of EU GDP and 13% of the EU’s population yet having only 8% (if united) say, whilst holding less than 3% of the various offices within the EU Do note The EUropean Parliament has no ability to make policy and has a Commission of unelected bureaucrats, thus clearly the EU is not even a pretence of being a democracy despite its protestations!Do note that many senior apparatchicks and even elected politicians speak openly of the ‘Post Democratic era’ with no sense of shame or irony and in complete contempt of the so called electorate – yet The EU & many of its vassal States/Regions are all too willing to slaughter people in Sovereign States, to impose The EU’s chosen brand of democracy on them!
Now as President Junker announced in his ‘State of the union’ speech 2017 the aim is to create an EU military force and centralise ever more of the decision making and control!
The imposition of a Government and policies upon its vassal regions such as the peoples of Greece shows just how far from being a democracy the EU is.
Just follow the recent EU display of so called ‘Democracy’:
France and the Netherlands voted against the proposed EU constitution in 2005, only to have those votes ignored.
Ireland voted against ratifying the Lisbon treaty in 2008, but then later under pressure & threats had to change its mind.
Greece for me was the final straw. It became clear in 2015 that it didn’t matter which way the Greek people voted. The birthplace of democracy had become its tomb. That was enough. I was going to vote to leave the EU when the chance came.
No political party of any significance in Britain took active steps to achieve a Referendum – the task was eventually taken by an Indipendent West Midlands MEP Nikki Sinclaire who personally launched and funded the gathering of a petition of 225,000 signatures delivered to Parliament via Downing Street, thus forcing a debate in the House of Commons on an IN/OUT Referendum, which led to David Cameron’s first consequential rebellion.
It was due to winning that debate, officially opposed by every party including Ukip that David Cameron was forced to include a promise of an IN/OUT Referendum in the Tory Manifesto at the next General Election. The rest is history & despite no Parliamentary Party backing the OUT vote & Government spending Millions of Pounds of public money leafletting & promoting ‘Project Fear’ to try to persuade the British people to Remain just as they had at the first Referendum in 1975 – This time their lies and threats were not heeded and in the largest vote in British history Britain voted by a clear majority to Leave.
Nikki Sinclaire’s OUT result left Cameron & his co conspirator Osborne with no option but to resign, sadly some of the other traitors have remained to try to hinder progress to BreXit, aided by their corrupt allies in the EU and \eu funding and bribes!
There will be little or no change in Britain’s economic position, if we leave the EU, using a better negotiated, customised & updated version of the ‘Norway Model’ as a stepping stone to becoming a full member of the Eropean Economic Area, where all will benefit, as we secure trade relations with the EU’s vassal regions, with an EFTA style status and can trade and negotiate independently on the global stage, as members of The Commonwealth and the Anglosphere.
This is of course dependent on a modicum of intelligence on the part of Britain’s politicians and negotiators but it also requires the integrity of Parliament to uphod democracy and the integrity of EU politicuians & apparchicks to act ethically and without their normal vindictive mallice.
I believe Leaving the EU will be turned into something of a rough ride by the ignorant and the corrupt but I have no doubt that in the long run Leaving the EU will prove conclusively to be in the best interests of Britain and our true allies. I also believe that Britain leaving the EU will prove to be the catalyst to great changes within the EU and hopefully its democratisation as without great changes it is indubitably doomed.
Do not overlook the fact that politicians have plotted and schemmed since the 1950s and we have actually been vassals of the EU, when it was still using the aesopian linguistics and calling itself The Common Market in the early 1970s, a name the bureaucrats arbitrarily changed to EUropean Union in the early 1990s as they worked towards their long term goals of an ever closer centrally controlled Political and economic Union with its own anthem, currency, flag and rigid central control by its self appointed bureacrats towards a new Empirate –
It will take many years to rectify the mess our political class got us into and we have no other peacefull means by which to extricate ourselves than to depend on that self same self styled elite, who all too often forget they work for us!
One huge benefit of BreXit will be that we can negotiate with bodies like the WTO, UN, WHO, IMF, CODEX and the like, directly, in our own interest and that of our partners around the world, in both the Commonwealth and the Anglosphere at large; rather than having negotiations and terms imposed by unelected EU bureacrats and their interpretation of the rules handed down, as if they were some great achievement of the EU’s!The greatest change and benefit will be political, as we improve our democracy and self determination, with the ability to deselect and elect our own Government, with an improved Westminster structure, see >Harrogate Agenda<.
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