Home Flexcit Impact Assessments Monographs Contact Archive

EU Referendum: the good, bad and the lies - 1

2016-03-02 20:51:48

The Government paper starts with a subtle lie: "This paper looks at the potential models for the UK's relationship with the European Union, if there were to be a vote to leave", it states.

In so doing, it actually offers a highly selective view of a limited number of options - by no means all of the , potential models. And it is putting a negative spin on the consequences of the limited number of options it does discus. Pre-eminent amongst the omissions, of course, is Flexcit, despite downloads of this two-year-old plan now having reached 48,000.

That is the way the Government, as with the Remain campaign, intends to play it. It doffs its cap to the unworkable options and, despite the referendum being the people's choice, ignores the only crowdsourced plan in existence - the one that happens to be workable.

Nevertheless, while they think they can ignore us alongside the leave "noise makers" (a foolhardy mistake) - we don't ignore them. Knowing our enemy is what gives us much of our strength. Thus, for the rest of the day (and following days), we will be analysing this second Government paper of the week, pointing out the good, the bad and the lies.

Looking at the text and starting with the executive summary - if the Government thinks it is trying to deter people from voting to leave, it needs to try harder. Much of what it seems to think is the downside merely comprises statements of the obvious, which we've long conceded in Flexcit.

Thus, when the Government tells us that, "regardless of the preferred outcome that the UK seeks, the precedents clearly indicate that we would need to make a number of trade-offs".

This is precisely what we have been saying for more than two years. We are not going to get a swift "clean" exit. To get inside the two-year Article 50 deadline, we are going to have to compromise. That we should have to do so is a given.

If the authors of this paper cared to read Flexcit (which they probably have), they would have noted that we say, in effect, that "in return for full access to the EU's free-trade Single Market in key UK industries, we would have to accept the free movement of people".

The Government presents this as if it was something new and terrible. Yet that very issue is at the core of Flexcit. In order to maintain access to the Single Market, pro tem, we will have to take on board free movement. You can read this in Flexcit, page 122, where it says: "it is unlikely that the EU would settle for any formal free trade agreement without some provision for freedom of movement".

Only the rabid wing of the leavers fail to recognise this. For the rest of us, as part of a phased withdrawal from the EU, we can accept continued free movement as the temporary price for a swift exit.

We can also better deal with migration outside the EU even within the EEA. While Mr Cameron has to go cap in hand to the Commission for his incredibly weak "emergency brake", EFTA states within the EEA can unilaterally invoke "safeguard measures", which far outstrip the minimal (and unenforceable) concessions given to the UK.

The Government then goes on to tell us that access to the Single Market would require us to implement its rules as if this was something new or special. But of course we would have to implement these rules. This should go without saying. To sensible leavers, this isn't even an issue.

What we didn't adopt though the EEA, we would repatriate anyway. The day after Brexit, all EU laws would continue in force. Only gradually, would we redefine the rule book and, since so much of EU law is now of global origin, we would end up keeping it anyway.

According to the Government, though, from outside, the UK would no longer have a vote on these rules. But inside the EU, we get seven percent of the vote on the Council, while the vast majority (over 3,500 instruments a year) of laws are placed on the A-list and go through without voting anyway.

Then, outside the EU, the UK would have a vote. We would restore our voting rights on international and regional bodies, where most laws start their life and, through the EEA, we would have a veto to block any EU laws that we don't like if we decide to accept new laws, which is by no means automatic.

Before leaving the Norway option in this preliminary assessment, the FCO tells us that there is no guarantee that we could fully replicate our existing cooperation in other areas, such as cross-border action against criminals.

This is very much the style of the document innuendo is rampant. But there is no reason why we should expect to continue with any number of cooperative arrangements. Norway does, Iceland does. Why would the UK no do so?

Finally, before moving on, we get these good and faithful Civil Servants artfully tell us that full access to the Single Market would require us to continue to contribute to the EU's programmes and budget.

But hey! We know this already. All of this has been explored fully in Felxcit, and there is no problem with it. We divorce the political ambitions from the cooperative programmes, and there is a price tag that goes with it.

What we don't get from these gifted public servants is any suggestion that the this is anything other than a possible end game. There is no hint that this could be an interim solution and there is more to come that there more then just the dead end of a Norway emulation. As always, it is not what they say, it's what they don't say.

Next in line, though, is the "Free Trade Area" option. We'll look at that in Part 2.