LeaveHQ, 20/06/2017  

We are not surprised a softer Brexit is viewed with suspicion. After all, the usual remainer suspects demand that we stay in the single market and remain in the customs union. Since they have tried every other means at their disposal to stop Brexit they have squandered their political capital. 

What makes it worse is that those MPs and personalities who argue for it have no real concept of what these terms mean or indeed how we go about it. It is entirely knee-jerk. Rather than seeing the potential merits of a such a setup they see it as a halfway house - which raises all the more suspicion that we could be sucked back in. Leavers want Theresa May to stick to her word that Brexit means Brexit and we cannot be half in, half out.

But then that is a misnomer. Nobody is half in, half out. You are either a member of the EU or you are not. Unequivocally, Norway is not a member of the EU. It just has a very sophisticated and comprehensive relationship with the EU. One might even say a "deep and special" relationship. Further to this, a customs union agreement is really just a trade deal to eliminate certain barriers to trade. None of this defeats the spirit of ending political union with the EU. 

For the Leave Alliance, we have never really been taken with the idea that there are immediate economic benefits to Brexit. We have always accepted there are substantial risks and that it is not primarily an economic proposition. With the EU being the nearest and largest regulatory and economic superpower it follows that we would require an extensive relationship with it and deep cooperation is still in our best interests. 

If anything we view Brexit as a preparation for the future. Over the last twenty years we have seen a steady growth of private and international regulatory authorities and global conventions bringing us ever closer to a global single market. When we look at the trade picture globally we see that regulation (the lack of common frameworks), not tariffs, is the biggest barrier to trade. 

It would be wrong to say that Britain did not enjoy influence in the EU but in the matter of adopting global rules and regulations Britain can be, and very often is, compelled or obliged to adopt them on the say so of the EU. While a common approach very often is in our interests, there are times when it is not - where such impositions remind us that we are only nominally sovereign.

Then with the dawn of the WTO agreement on technical barriers to trade, the EU has, of its own volition ceded the regulatory agenda to global bodies such as Codex and UNECE where we find we would have an enhanced role were we to be outside of ECJ control and out of the common commercial policy. If the trend is toward global regulation then it follows that the UK will need to be an active and independent player with its own vote and right of proposal. 

This new(ish) dynamic rather illustrates the futility of leaving the single market in that there is an ever growing convergence between the global standard and the EU standard and in many cases one and the same. The scope for deregulation is limited and largely undesirable since regulation largely serves to facilitate trade. In this respect, far from being a passive recipient of EU rules, as some assert, we would have a more active role in their creation and we would adopt them directly rather than through the EU middleman. In that respect we could have abolished roaming charges far sooner. The EU was a stalling factor.  

We should also note that in or out of the single market we will still be influenced by EU specific rules since the EU will remain a large component of our exports. Both Canada and New Zealand have recently overhauled their food safety rules to make them more compatible with those of the EU. More locally we see that Switzerland uses its national legislature to mirror EU rules and in some cases adopts ECJ and council decisions automatically as per the framework of their relationship. In that regard they have fewer powers of veto than Norway. 

It is our view that sovereingty is a much abused term and nebulous in nature. If it means anything it means having the right to say no, both in theory and in practice. We recognise that the ability to say no does not mean we always will and we recognise there will be trade offs and penalties for doing so. That choice though should rest with the people of Great Britain and Northern Ireland rather than technocrats in Brussels. 

We are of the view that events have surpassed many of the classic eurosceptic arguments, not least those matters around regulation. As painful as it was to adopt single market legislation we would not seek to repeat the pain of changing to a new regime only to find it evolves into pretty much what we have now. Moreover, we would note that the single market is not the sole property of the EU. It is a collaborative venture between Efta EEA members and the EU, and the UK's membership of it goes some way to evening out the balance of power. We would have considerable collective ability to lean on the EU to reform in ways we could not achieve as a member. 

Either viewed as a destination or a transitional mechanism there is a lot to be said for it. There is no reason why a flexible agreement like the EEA could not be evolved so that there would be no real need to leave it. We could very easily seek to expand and enhance it.

We do not view EEA/Efta as a second prize or a mitigating measure. It fulfils the requirement of being out of the EU with an independent trade policy and the restoration of the essential sovereignty that we demand. We would urge those who would like to see this outcome to present the option in a different light other than a retreat to safety. In its own right it has much going for it. 

For those hard line leavers who will accept nothing other than a bespoke trade deal, we would point out that any new relationship will eventually end up replicating the EEA agreement and we are wasting our time reinventing the wheel. 

We would also note that we will need a transitional agreement. In that, any transition that is not the EEA is a "deal" where the ECJ retains supreme authority. In other words, we dither in the EU considerably longer while we craft a bespoke arrangement, all the while being unable to pursue other trade avenues. Possibly long enough for a new government to halt the process. It seems to us that Efta EEA is the fastest and cleanest Brexit available - and we would be fools to hold out for an illusory perfection when adequate will do the job. 

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