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.
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
Yesterday, I pointed out what appear to be two serious problems in Iain Mansfield’s prize winning Brexit paper. First, he writes as if joining EFTA would in itself give preferential access to the European (ie EU) market. Second, he says that our entry to EFTA would need the agreement of the EU and all its member states.
On the second point, here is Article 56(1) of the consolidated (ie in its current amended form) EFTA Convention, which is also now known as the Vaduz Convention, since the major revision of the Convention at Vaduz in 2001:
I left off yesterday trying to understand what Iain Mansfield means by ‘EFTA access’ to the European market. It is true that all four EFTA countries do have a high degree of access to the European market through being part of the Single Market, either by means of the EEA Agreement or, in the case of Switzerland, through a series of bilateral agreements. But if we end the free movement of peoples, as Mansfield proposes, then, as I understand it, we would no longer be in the Single Market, in the normal sense of the term. Indeed, to the best of my knowledge, membership of EFTA itself would not give any preferential market access to the nations of the Single Market (EEA plus Switzerland).
In July 2013, the Institute of Economic Affairs announced a competition to
compose a Blueprint for Britain outside the EU, covering the process of withdrawal from the EU and the post-exit repositioning of the UK in the global trading and governance systems, covering, inter alia:
- The legal and constitutional process necessary for the UK to leave the EU and set up, if desired, alternative international relationships. This would include not just the process within the EU itself but the changes to UK law and regulation that would be desirable or necessary.
- Negotiation of the UK’s post-EU-exit position to settle the UK’s relationships with the remaining EU and other interested parties and, crucially, with the rest of the world, in respect of trade, supranational governance, immigration, the environment, financial regulation, defence etc.
The winning entry, by Iain Mansfield, and entitled ‘A Blueprint for Britain: Openness not Isolation‘ was announced in April 2014. I am taking a look at it today, not to pass judgement on it as a whole, for which I am hardly qualified, but to make a few observations.