As the referendum debate heats up there are a thousand reasons and more being discussed regarding why we should leave the EU; but there is very little discussion amongst the general public as to how we leave the EU. Europhiles have been hugely successful in conflating EU membership with Single Market membership and the entire Remain campaign is based on the risks and potential costs of leaving the Single Market. This is actually their Achilles heel; participation in the Single Market does not require EU membership.
Vote Leave opted to ignore the open goal in front of them and instead launched the ball into the terraces and tripped over their own laces. They have argued the case for leaving the Single Market and consequently they are losing the economic argument. They have instead focused on dubious figures, hollow slogans and indulgence in the deregulation delusion. However, they are not a governing party seeking election and a vote to leave the EU is not a mandate for implementing the policy suggestions of a campaign group. Andrea Leadsom and Boris Johnson have both acknowledged that the proposals of Vote Leave are not a program for government but rather ideas to contribute to the debate (many of them fatuous or disingenuous).
Now many on both sides of the debate have tired of their platitudes and have come to realise that the “Norway option”, or the EFTA/EEA model, is by far the most viable and realistic method of seceding. We will leave the EU and remain in the Single Market, thereby ending our political and judicial union but maintaining our economic relationship. This is a solid foundation on which to begin building an independent Britain.
From there we can have the nationwide debate on what this renewed nation should be like. This will be a unifying debate that all Britons will want a say in; policies will be proposed, debated and discussed on all sides of the political spectrum. This is the essential beauty of a soft-landing Brexit; it’s a comfortable departure lounge in which the whole country can decide where it wants to go.
Brexit opens up a world of opportunities and potential but it will not fall into our lap. Our politicians will have to shape up and so will we. If we are going to have a participatory democracy then we need to be engaged. Leaving the EU will electrify this country as we begin to realise a renewed sense of identity, vigour and pride. The restoration of self-governance will spark a debate on major domestic reforms and movements will spawn to influence the construction of a new Britain. Whether left wing or right, Brexit is the only means of bringing about genuine change and it will be up to all of us to keep pushing and campaigning in order to unlock its potential. This is what it means to be a country; this is what it means to control our destiny; this is how we reform our democracy.
It will no doubt take a long time for us to really exploit the opportunities of independence and to rebuild the institutions necessary for self-governing nation. It will be a vast shake up of our political system and the end of many political careers. The renewed sense of responsibility and accountability will be beyond many of our current batch of politicians. The real business of government will have returned to Britain and it will require able men and women who are up to the task. It will take time; but the EFTA/EEA model gives us that time and the economic security we need.
There are many myths and misconceptions in circulation regarding the “Norway option” and they are proliferated routinely by remain campaigners. I deal with many of them in this severe critique of Ian Birrel’s hatchet job on the “Norway option” in the Mail on Sunday. Remainers lie about what Norway pays in its relationship with the EU, about the amount of EU law it must comply with and about the fact that Norway does have a say in shaping the “rules” of the Single Market at both a European and international level. They lie about who makes the rules and where they originate from and they suppress or ignore the globalisation factor that throws into question their whole argument on the “influence” we would lose by leaving the EU.
What they don’t want Britain to know is that it does not represent a permanent alternative to EU membership but rather the framework we phase into as stage one in the long and complex process of leaving the EU. Aside from temporary market jitters it means an economically neutral Brexit. It represents the most achievable short term Brexit settlement with minimal disruption, offering the maximum possible reassurance for business. That is why the Prime Minister was recruited to attack it all the way back in October. It’s why the Remain campaign fears it.
Neither should we be misled into thinking it means we want to “be” Norway. We are notNorway, we have a larger and more diverse economy with far bigger potential. We have many more industries and we have serious soft power clout and a wealth of expertise to offer Europe and the world. By our joining the European Free Trade Association we make it the fourth largest trading bloc in the world. We can exert influence in the world with EFTA and we can build alliances and coalitions with other countries as and when we need to. We can pursue trade agreements with EFTA, or we can pursue agreements individually. Taken purely as a post-Brexit settlement it has many advantages:
Despite what the detractors from the extremes of the EU referendum debate say about the EFTA/EEA model; it represents a significant repatriation of sovereignty to Parliament and a vast repatriation of policy making. It will require a huge restoration of independent policies in trade, agriculture, fisheries, energy and foreign policy. We have lost much of the capacity for self-governance and it be a long, difficult and complex process in rebuilding it.
While this could be pessimistically framed as a difficulty not worth bearing; I consider it part of the excitement. With the constraints of the EU lifted the potential opens up for an ideas revolution; an opportunity for real innovation and political change. Decentralisation from Brussels offers the opportunity to revive local democracy and reshape the country.
With prestige returned to our Parliament, the reconstruction of our trade delegation and the expansion of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, we will walk onto the international stage with pride and a sense of renewal. We will go global once again.
It is a cynical and dishonest false dichotomy that an independent Britain will be inward looking and isolationist. The EFTA/EEA model will allow us to become a cooperative and hugely beneficial component of the European political system. No longer an uncomfortable, ill-tempered EU state hindering integration but a country happy in its own skin and acting as an ally and sponsor to the EU.
What Brexit looks like in the first instance and foreseeable future is clear. It’s a settlement I believe the country can unite behind. What it looks like in 10, 20 or 50 years is for the people and the politicians they elect to decide (we give our input in Flexcit). As construction of our new country advances, we will push for reforms of the EEA and pursue other goals in Europe and beyond, and as we rebuild our trade networks we will gradually move to a more bespoke “British model” for relating to the EU.
Globalisation is an accelerating process which will increasingly make the Single Market less relevant as a global marketplace emerges; we will be further integrated into the global trading system and will reap the benefits of trading agility and multilateralism. We do not need to be a province in a political and judicial union, we do not need to be a submissive subordinate; we do not need to be governed by a supreme government for Europe.
We are an open, liberal, tolerant and outward looking global nation and it is time we proved it once and for all. A vote to Remain is the defeatist’s choice, the pessimist’s choice and the anti-democrat’s choice. The barrier to positive change, renewal and reform is the EU. On the other side of the barrier is the tantalising opportunity of a new Britain, of our own making, in our own style, under our control. Brexit is the key; Norway is the doorway.
This post was published by the author 7 June 2016 https://thescepticisle.com/2016/06/07/brexit-is-the-key-norway-is-the-doorway/