Pete north politics blog the case for not making a massive fucking pig’s ear of brexit

The Leave Alliance, of which I am a part, is the only campaign to have produced a workable comprehensive plan. Our recommendation is to leave via the EEA. And this is not because we are soft brexiteers. We took the view that a vision without a plan is just a pipe dream. In beginning the analysis we first had to ask if the vision was achievable and relevant. That’s where we first hit problems. The classic eurosceptic free trade mantra hasn’t kept up with the times.

Being that we have, unlike other countries, spent three decades in a harmonised ecosystem, a lot of our trade has evolved to suit that system. So in departing from that system we must offer a viable alternative. That’s where things get messy. This is because of the emergence of global standards and regulations which we discovered have enormous influence on what we’d always assumed were just Brussels regulation.


This changes the game entirely. It limits the potential and the economic utility of deregulation.

We then looked at the constraints of the Brexit process where Article 50 puts time constraints on us. Looking at the extent of EU integration there was never any possibility this could all be done in a hurry. From there we took the view that Brexit is a process, not an event. It became clear that forty years of technical, legal, social, political and economic integration could not be unravelled overnight – and in a great many instances, undesirable to do so. So how do we separate the good from the bad?

We therefore needed a framework. A transition. Given the preparations we would need to make, it would have to be a longer term transition. We are still of the view that Mrs May’s "vassal state" transition is not long enough. So it became clear that we needed a departure lounge that avoided any cliff edges. Being that the EEA is an available framework covering all the relevant subject areas, it presents itself as the obvious way to manage it.

Since the referendum our understanding has evolved and we have come to appreciate the EEA agreement for what it is. An adaptive framework with country specific protocols. We can use the system to evolve the relationship. By adding our weight to Efta – a respected entity in its own right, with members able to forge their own trade deals as well as having an enhanced preferential relationship with the EU, we can improve the EEA and re-balance the power equation.

In doing so we would be leaving without a vassal state transition which could end up lasting a decade or more, and we would accomplish the first job of leaving the political union while minimising the economic damage. In respect of that, this would honour the eurosceptic view that we want the best available trade with the EU, just not ever closer union and the final destination of the EU. Given the kind of technical integration which is mutually beneficial, it makes sense to keep the EEA.

Here we find that under Article 112 of the EEA agreement there is a mechanism available to us and a precedent which would begin a political process to adapt freedom of movement. So would this be sufficient? Obviously this does not appease the hard liners – but what we find is that we need a full spectrum policy of varying measures because modern immigration control is not done at the borders. We need an entirely new policy on immigration.

At this point we would be better looking to negotiate with our Efta allies for an EEA wide reform of FoM, where combined with voices from inside the EU, we could be kicking at an open door. The point is, though, that we were never going to resolve all of the issues all at once and it will take continual pressure to keep the Brexit momentum going. What concerns us most is securing the first step – leaving the EU safely.

By taking a harder line we risk either being in a perpetual state of transition only to move to a threadbare FTA, sacrificing substantial trade for ineffectual immigration controls which don’t really address what people are really worried about. We do not, therefore, see EEA as "soft Brexit". Rather we see it as the most efficient, clean, smart Brexit, taking into account the polticial obligation we have to Northern Ireland and the desire to remain open to trade with the EU. It works and it beats the alternatives.