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).
I have just found a clue as to what may be going on. In Box 8 on page 26, and the accompanying note 51 on the previous page, Mansfield states that ‘Membership of EFTA’
would remove all tariffs and quotas for non-agricultural goods whilst retaining the right for the UK to carry out its own trade agreements and to be not covered by significant sections of EU law.
I think he means – because this would fit what he says elsewhere – that membership of EFTA would remove all tariffs and quotas for non-agricultural goods with regard to trade with the EU. I am as certain as I can be that he is wrong in this. Moreover, as a member of EFTA, but not of the EEA, we would not need to be covered by EU law at all, as I understand it.
Accession to EFTA, and the EU
I am, if anything, even more puzzled by Mansfield’s statement on page 27 that:
joining EFTA … must be agreed upon by the EU and all its member states.
I don’t understand this at all. As I said in my previous post, Mansfield says correctly on page 24 that ‘membership of EFTA … would … need to be agreed by a unanimity of EFTA states.’ I am unable to see why there is any need for agreement from the EU or its member nations, nor have I ever heard this suggested elsewhere.
Along similar lines, in Box 8 on page 26, Mansfield rates the difficulty of achieving membership of EFTA as ‘Medium’, but the difficulty of achieving non-membership of the EEA as ‘Med[ium]/high’, with a note (51) that ‘The EU may attempt to link membership of EFTA and the EEA’. We have previously seen that Mansfield appears to believe that we can only join EFTA if the EU and all its member nations agree. If this were the case, then I can see that they might say that we could only join EFTA if we agreed to join the EEA also. But in fact, a decision on an application to join EFTA would be taken by the EFTA states alone.