Now there’s a headline I never thought that I’d write, but, here, writing in the Financial Times, is Steven Kinnock, son of Neil (the former Labour leader), and himself Labour MP for Aberavon.
It’s possible to disagree with some of what Kinnock has to say on the relationship between the Article 50 procedure (based on Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty) establishing the terms of the U.K.’s divorce from the EU and the treaty’s Article 218 (which, roughly speaking, determines what comes next), but he’s quite right to argue that “the government must urgently focus its attention on building a bridge between the withdrawal (Article 50) and final-state (Article 218) stages of Brexit. Failure to do so would see the UK crashing out in just over 18 months time.”
The latter would, whatever some might claim, be disastrous.
So what do?
The simplest option is for Britain to transition into the European Economic Area (EEA) — a free-trade bloc between the EU, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein that provides unfettered access to the single market. It is a well-established and well-understood arrangement that offers the clarity and stability that the British economy needs in these turbulent times.
Yes, our old friend, the Norway option.
But what about immigration?
Kinnock (my emphasis added):
Crucially, the EEA allows its members to reform freedom of movement. If the UK were to leave the EU and join the EEA in March 2019 then the government could, if it wishes, invoke Article 112(1) of the EEA agreement, which allows for the unilateral establishment of a quota-based immigration system structured around regional and sectoral criteria.
But what about the European Court of Justice (ECJ), a bogeyman to Brexit ultras, for reasons that largely escape me: Once the U.K. is out of the EU and the machinery of ‘ever closer union,’ the ECJ’s federalist bias ceases to be of much concern. Any trade agreement needs an arbitrator.
What’s more, as Kinnock points out:
The EEA is also not subject to the European Court of Justice, instead it adheres to rulings of the EEA Joint Committee and the EFTA Surveillance Authority and Court, which regulate the internal market and have a more flexible approach to national interpretations of the rules for the single market than the ECJ.
That’s true, although it implies a more independent relationship between the EFTA court and the ECJ than is really the case.
There’s even more to be said for the EEA (or Norway) option: I touch on some of it here.
Meanwhile Kinnock argues that the EEA option should be temporary:
An end date for any transition deal is vital, meaning that the UK should not be seeking membership of the EEA for more than the time that it will take to negotiate and ratify the trade and partnership phase of Brexit. EEA membership must be seen as a well-established and relatively comfortable waiting room in which we can sit for as long as it takes [for] the government and its counterparts to negotiate a long-term deal.
So far as I am concerned (other Norway optioneers will disagree), the U.K. could do well to remain in that waiting room for a very long time and maybe even forever — or at least until ‘events’ intervene, which they will.
H/t (as often) EUReferendum