question of leaving the EU is a matter of when, not if. The real
question is how do you want to leave? The subtext question for us in
this referendum is do you want to do it amicably and orderly now or
acrimoniously and expensively later.
As Brexit watchers will know, we are not voting for the EU status quo. We are voting for membership of an entirely different entity.
We are voting effectively to green light the EU Eurozone supreme
government - with us no direct voting rights on those internal economic
issues. To all intents and purposes we will witness the birth of a new,
large and powerful country. We shall not included in it, but we will be a
subordinate neighbor on a tight leash.
EU will no doubt seek to replace eurozone member states on international
bodies, speaking as one for all - and will likely use its might to
suppress our remaining contribution on all the global bodies where
single market regulation is made.
We can see distinct
advantages for the EU in this but we see none for us. We get a diminished
role in the EU and a further diminished role on the world stage. This
is in exchange for membership of a smaller, isolated market in what is a
much larger global single market. Any way you look at it, that is not a
good deal for Britain. The world's fifth largest economy subdued and
subordinated to the Eurozone nation sounds like a bum deal to us.
have spoken much of "the Norway Option" which is described as having no
real say in the EU. Yet it gets to deal direct with the global bodies
that make the regulations the EU adopts and complies with. We on the
other hand, as a diminished member of the EU, must ask our middleman, to
include our opinion. That is how it works. As it stands our influence is
slight and is diminishing. As a secondary tier concern of the "reformed EU" we cannot see that dynamic improving. More likely the opposite.
has a veto at the global level. We on the other hand must cross our
fingers and hope that enough EU states agree with us. Otherwise we must
do as we are instructed. This is somehow "influence" and this is
described as, for reasons that escape us, democracy. This is highly unsatisfactory now and to us the new deal looks rather a bit worse.
So now we have to ask what it is we want. Do we want to be fully engaged at the global level as a necessary counterweight to the EU or do we wish to be a subservient to the wishes of the Greater EU?
the EU does not mean isolation. Efta is already a sizable economic
bloc, which would be strengthened considerably by UK membership - and
that does not preclude the UK forming ad hoc alliances with the EU at
those times when unity is both necessary and desirable. As we have
argued, Brexit does not mean an end to cooperation with the EU. It just
gives us the freedom to choose.
This does not threaten
trade, this does not threaten jobs - for Efta/EEA means single market
access. It makes for a truly reformed Europe, not just a reformed EU -
with a Europe more at ease with itself - without a reluctant and unhappy
Britain dragging its heals. The Norway Option removes the thorn from
the paw and lets everyone progress in the direction in which they need
to travel. Put simply there is presently no downside to leaving the EU.
this is a limited offer. The existence of the EEA/Efta arrangement may
well be discontinued as part of a different deal offered by the new EU
treaty. Whether we vote to leave or stay will be highly influential in
whether Switzerland and Norway take up the EU offer of associate
membership, thus abolishing the EEA.
That then means
the end of any mutually advantageous Brexit option and any future Brexit
would necessarily require a long drawn out process of negotiating a
bespoke agreement that very much leaves us out on our own. Moreover, the
lack of a realistic Brexit option after 2017 might well mean that we
are permanently attached to the EU until such a time when circumstance
unceremoniously forces our exit.
So the real
gamble here - the very real risk is that we squander our chance to
reform Europe for the better, kicking the can down the road, in the
forlorn hope that the new master-slave relationship with the EU solves
any of the structural and philosophical questions for Britain. I rather
suspect it will not and it will eventually require a seismic disruption
in domestic politics to force our exit. By this time relations will be
so sour that the probability of an amicable settlement will be remote.
Meanwhile we suffer the economic consequences of not being a fully
engaged member of the global community.
here is the chance to make European relations work for everybody - or we
can persist in the supranational ideals of the last century, continuing
to ignore that it is the fundamentals in the DNA of the EU that we have
a problem with and not the peripheral economic and social issues that
manifest themselves periodically.
The questions we would
put to the europhiles are whether this is an opportunity we can afford
to pass up - and are they so certain that the new EU is the right
solution for Britain that they are prepared to risk our eventual
ejection into a world with no allies and diminished international
standing? What then? Can we really afford to be so cavalier with our