Norway Is No Way Out of Euro Limbo


The “Norway” option of staying in the EEA was one of the first to be ruled out after the referendum – among other issues it doesn’t allow the UK to end free movement and would mean the UK remaining subject to vast swathes of EU law in perpetuity. Although much the same could be said about Chequers…

However, the suggestion of using the EEA as a staging post during the transition period has regained some traction after senior Tory MP Nick Boles made a renewed call over the weekend for the UK to seek temporary membership of the EEA, to give the government time to negotiate a new relationship with the EU and avoid what he calls the “humiliation” of Chequers. Boles is very close to Michael Gove – has the Environment Secretary gone cold on Chequers after taking the heat from angry local party members over the summer break?

It won’t work for several reasons. If the UK had announced it was seeking to maintain EEA membership two years ago, it’s possible that the EU would have agreed to it. At this stage in the negotiations it’s unlikely the EU will accept any EEA-style deal unless the UK also commits to remaining in the customs union. As we’ve seen time and time again in the negotiations, the EU simply pockets any British concessions and then continues demanding more…

And while Boles’ well-intentioned plan only views the EEA as a short-term stop, many Brexiteers are understandably worried that once the UK gets in, the inertia of the EEA will prove too great to overcome and Britain will end up staying in on a permanent basis, with all the disadvantages that brings. If the Brexit negotiations are still a mess after March next year, that will at least be a strong incentive for both sides to keep negotiating until a sustainable long-term solution is found. Once Britain has been safely bound up in the trap of the EEA, the EU will have no incentive to come back to the table…

As Boris’ column this morning pointed out, there are still over two years until the end of the transition period – time which can be used to negotiate a better alternative to Chequers. With the exception of the Irish backstop, the Withdrawal Agreement itself should not lock the UK in to any particular type of future relationship. Provided the UK does not give in to the EU’s demands on the Irish backstop, there is no need to make a desperate dash for the EEA option. It’s not too late to put a comprehensive Canada-plus deal back on the table…




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David Davis says of Michael Gove…

“he is clever. But sometimes clever men miss the obvious.”

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