LeaveHQ, 08/03/2016  

There are far too many bad ideas and redundant arguments coming from the Leave camp and they need to be neutralised in order to maximise our chance of success. They actively contribute to the fear, uncertainty and doubt that is so easily stoked in the public.

Of these, there are few more irresponsible that the misguided notion that the UK could “simply” amend the 1972 European Communities Act to end its political union with the EU. To be clear, an Article 50 notification is the only legal and viable means of leaving the European Union and it is the only method which obliges the EU to negotiate a settlement. It is therefore the only method the Government will countenance. At the very least this is part of the debate that should be settled for good.

Repealing the 1972 European Communities Act would be a hostile action and an exercise in self-harming; we would be unilaterally breaking with our treaty obligations with terrible consequences. The UK’s reputation would be in tatters as it renders itself an international pariah that can’t be relied upon to meet its obligations.

Crucially, repeal of the 1972 Act would be a venture of domestic law only. Our treaty obligations would remain intact, thus failure to live up to them would be actionable. So, while we are entangled in a very messy and destructive political and legal dispute with the EU we would be trading under WTO rules only, having broken our treaty obligations and failed to make any specific trading arrangements.

So what about all the mutual recognition of standards and agreements on non-tariff barriers? Almost immediately the EU would erect tariff barriers. Not out of spite, but because it has a common external tariff. That is simply the legal default.

The Single Market is defined as a Regional Trade Agreement (RTA), and as an RTA it is permitted under trading rules to discriminate against countries who are not members. If we left the EU to trade under WTO rules only we would acquire the status of “Most Favoured Nation” (MFN) with the EU. According to the rules of the WTO system the EU would be obliged to impose the same tariffs under the same conditions as all other countries that enjoy MFN status. So for certain sectors overnight we would face the disadvantage of higher tariffs.

At the same time, we must follow the standards and rules of entry for products exported into the Single Market as a WTO member. An RTA can decide the rules of entry for all products intended for its market and refuse entry to those which fail to comply. Having eschewed a negotiated settlement via Article 50, our products would fail to conform and be blocked from the marketplace, while we could not do the same in retaliation.

The UK would not be able to retaliate and refuse entry to products from the EU (as long as they meet international standards) because we are not an RTA, and therefore we are not permitted to discriminate. The disadvantages for the UK are significant and obvious. We could be discriminated against with no legal means of retaliation.

Our exports would be disrupted as we could find certain sectors barred from EU trade due to our inability to conform to a particular standards, leaving goods stranded at ports awaiting approval. The WTO recognises Non Tariff Barriers as the largest restricting factor on international trade, where many countries raise particular standards codes to keep out international competition and protect domestic producers. This is why we cannot just unilaterally sever treaties, reject negotiation and rely on WTO rules alone.

We have explained in greater detail why trading solely under WTO rules is not a realistic or viable option here. In layman terms, it would be an economic catastrophe.

This is the reality of “simply” repealing the European Communities Act 1972; it would be a political and economic disaster that would leave our reputation and our economy in tatters. This is why it is not an option on the table and no one in the Leave movement should waste another moment considering it or advocating it. Failing to meet our obligations and breaking treaties is unthinkable and thoroughly un-British.

The purpose of Brexit is not to cut ourselves off from the EU, or to turn our backs and isolate ourselves, or to act out in hostility. What we seek is a new relationship with the EU based on cooperation, not subordination. In order to get that, we will have to act in good faith and the spirit of cooperation to ensure that our secession is managed sensibly, to the benefit of all parties.

Read Flexcit: The Market Solution to leaving the EU

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