Michael Gove claimed this week that there exists a European free trade zone. He said:
There is a free trade zone stretching from Iceland to Turkey that all European nations have access to, regardless of whether they are in or out of the euro or EU. [his footnote n. 26] After we vote to leave we will remain in this zone. The suggestion that Bosnia, Serbia, Albania and the Ukraine would remain part of this free trade area – and Britain would be on the outside with just Belarus – is as credible as Jean-Claude Juncker joining UKIP.
His only supporting reference for this claim, as given in the above document, is this map from the EU:
What is at stake is our freedom as a nation. The economy is not the main issue, nor even is immigration for that matter. What matters is that we are a free people at heart and long to be free in our country again, to rule ourselves and not to be ruled by others. This is very simple, and the point cannot be over-emphasised.
That said, we can consider the effect on our economy of a Brexit, in a form which does not involve continued subjugation to the dictates of Brussels. Once we are out, or rather, as we are on our way out under Article 50, we should attempt to obtain a Free Trade Agreement with the EU, and it is reasonable to expect that we could reach an agreement by which we continued to trade in industrial goods without tariffs. Non-tariff barriers, especially in services, are liable to prove more of an obstacle.
It is obvious, when one thinks about it, that trade will be easier if everybody keeps exactly the same rules. The only way for everybody to keep the same rules is for there to be a single authority which sets and enforces them. If we desire to be free, and not be subject to such an authority, then there will be divergences in rules and regulations, and trade is likely to become a little harder. That is a price of freedom, and it is worth paying in my opinion.
In my last post, I described how, as a result of objections to an EEA Court by the ECJ, an EFTA Court was set up instead. A two pillar structure was established, with an EFTA Surveillance Authority being granted powers corresponding to those of the Commission in its surveillance role. The EFTA Court operates in parallel to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU or more commonly, ECJ), and has jurisdiction with regard to the three EFTA-EEA states, but not to Switzerland.
Broadly speaking, the EEA Agreement was designed to allow the EFTA nations to participate in the Single Market without the loss of national sovereignty that was inherent in membership in the European Community. It was intended to be an inter-governmental treaty, not one that brought into being a supranational entity with powers over nation states. It has been observed, however, that since its inception, the EEA has developed in a supranational direction, owing primarily to a series of judgements from the EFTA Court, in several cases finding in favour of litigants against one of the EFTA states.
One of the priorities for our Leave campaign is to develop coherence in our analysis of Brexit options. Once we are clearer about the options, I think there is still a possibility that something like a dominant majority position could emerge in favour of the Free Trade Agreement option. This is my own position, clearly, and I recognise of course that there is a strongly held alternative view that the EFTA-EEA option is preferable. But we cannot hope to resolve this issue until we have a good understanding of it.
Today, I want to address an element of confusion that seems to exist about the relationship between EFTA and the EEA. I discussed this before in my series on Iain Mansfield’s winning IEA Brexit Prize entry, and now want to look at Murray and Broomfield’s Brexit plan, which gained the runner-up’s position, and in which there is further evidence of incomplete understanding of EFTA and the EEA.
In its leaflet, on page 8 of the pdf, the Government claims that no country has so far:
managed to secure significant access to the Single Market, without having to:
• follow EU rules over which they have no real say
• pay into the EU
• accept EU citizens living and working in their country
The Government claim (at page 8 of pdf) that less than 8% of EU exports come to the UK, whereas 44% of UK exports go to the EU. Is this true?
Perhaps the most startling claim of the government’s pro-EU leaflet is that ‘We control our own borders’. For me, perhaps the primary reason for leaving the EU is to regain control of our borders, so I did a bit of a double take when I saw that our government was pretending that we already have such control.
The government has announced that it is sending out to 27 million homes a 16-page leaflet, making its case for Britain to remain in the EU. I am quite surprised by how outrageously biased it is. And also by how poorly written and argued. I was shocked by the following statement on the first page of the leaflet (page 2 of the pdf):
The UK has secured a special status in a reformed EU:
- we will not join the euro
Although I am basically in agreement with Iain Mansfield’s vision of a Britain which is outside the EU and is entering where possible into free trade agreements with countries and blocs the world over, I am not convinced that he has a proper understanding of EFTA, nor the right prescription for our future relationship with the EU. With regard to the first point, he seems to believe that membership of EFTA would in itself give preferential access to the EU market, and in this I think he is mistaken.
The Eastern Partnership and the acquis
I left off yesterday with a puzzle: why does Mansfield, after rejecting the idea of joining the EEA (through EFTA) because of the necessity of incorporating EU Single Market legislation, and advocating instead a looser arrangement, similar to that of the nations of the Eastern Partnership, then suggest that we would have to adopt 2/3 of the acquis communitaire? My difficulty is that the proportion of the acquis adopted by Norway and the other EFTA-EEA nations is lower than this, at least by most measure.
I think I may have found the answer. Continue reading