There is a great deal of ‘ignorant knowledge’ where Brexit and the EFTA/EEA ‘solution’ is concerned; highlighted today when this article by Greg Hands of 2018 was referred to on twitter; one which, to the disgust of one person on twitter, I described as crap.
I must perforce point out, yet again, that there is membership of the European Union and there is membership of the political construct of the European Union. What follows will, I trust, make the foregoing point clearer to those with ‘ignorant knowledge’ – such as Greg Hands. So let us take his article point by point.
He writes: This proposal (EFTA/EEA) is not only ill-informed, it is in effect a new guise for not leaving the EU at all. It also shows a possibly wilful lack of understanding of the
realities of EFTA. I write this as someone who both campaigned for Remain in 2016 and served, until recently, for two years as one of the country’s Trade Ministers. All one can say is that Greg Hands learned nowt during his two years as a Trade Minister; and obviously does not appreciate one can leave the political construct of the European Union whilst our nation thus frees itself from membership of the European Union.
This doyen of ignorant knowledge further writes: The advocates of EFTA (currently comprised of Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein) suggest simply that joining would give us access to the Single Market, but without ever closer political union. Sadly, this is wrong on both counts. Unfortunately, as I will show it is Greg Hands that is incorrect on all counts.
To my knowledge no-one has ever suggested that membership of EFTA provides access to the Single Market. As he acknowledges it is membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) that provides access to the Single Market. Just how can leaving the political construct of the European Union mean ‘ever closer union’? Why would we not wish to remain members of the EEA if it maintains seamless trade twixt the United Kingdom and the European Union, when the alternative would increase the mess in which we find ourselves today?
He writes also: EFTA countries are only able only to make relatively minor tariff adjustments – one to many ‘only’ methinks. Besides mastering nowt while a Trade Minister, he obviously cannot master English composition – but I digress.
When he also writes that: So when they suggest that the UK and EFTA
would create “a global trading titan”, all they would accomplish would be another trading vassal to the European Union; perhaps he should take a look at this statistic. One can hardly believe that ‘trading vassals’ would be able to arrange over Euro 566million of trade – and bear in mind the United Kingdom, in trade terms, is bigger than the current 4 EFTA states.
Further, Hands writes: Not only would membership prevent trade freedom and sovereignty, it would also maintain current EU immigration rules. While its proponents claim we would be “in a Single Market with a brake on free movement”, Single Market membership does not come with a brake on free movement, which applies to all EFTA states except tiny Liechtenstein. Does this man ever do ‘research’? Methinks not as Efta states not only possess trade freedom and, more importantly sovereignty, they also have, if they wish to invoke it, a brake on free movement – or has Article 112 of the EEA Agreement ‘passed him by’ – as so much about EFTA/EEA and full membership of the European Union also has.
Following on, Hands writes: Furthermore, EFTA backers proclaim we would have immediate access to the EFTA’s own trade agreements already signed. It is extremely doubtful that the counterparts to these deals would simply roll over the deals done with markets totalling 14 million people, to suddenly apply to markets totalling 80 million people. In fact, the quintupling of the size of EFTA would likely even make the EU seek to re-write the rules of EFTA to bring it even closer into alignment with Brussels. In regard to his second sentence, his basis to deny that is? The last time the EU tried to rewrite the rules of EFTA resulted in a rebuff for Jacques Delors who having initally promised an ‘equal voice’ to EFTA then back-tracked but eventually had to give ground when EFTA ‘dug in its heels’.
We then arrive at the biggest lie of all from Greg Hands when he writes: When EFTA proponents claim we would only “be subject to 20% of EU rules,” there is simply no evidence for this: even the Norwegian government estimates the real figure to be 75%, and the European Parliament itself notes that EFTA countries “have little influence on the final decision on the legislation on the EU side”.
To take the first half of that sentence, this is absolute crap! If we return to 2015, the last figures I can find, we learn that the EFTA Secretiarat reported that, since 1992 (the inception of the EEA Agreement) 10,862 acts have been incorporated into the EEA Agreement. It has to be realised that acts repeal other acts; and remember that some acts are time-limited, so cease to have any effect. Taking this into account, there are 4,957 acts remaining in force as of that date. The latest count (at that time) of the EU laws in force then stood at 23,076. As a percentage of that number, the EEA acquis of 4,957 acts herecurrently stood at 21 percent. The figure of 75% came from a report by the Norwegian Government in 2012 which utilised what I can only describe as a new method of maths (see here).
In regard to the second part of Hands’ assertion, why is it that Norway and EFTA states sit on over 200 EU committees having input into EU legislation? Coupling that point with the origin of ‘European Law’ I would refer to a dossier I presented to my MP (David Cameron) when I resided in the constituency of Witney – do read it all, please. From that dossier it is interesting to note that Norway, who has no automotive industry to speak of, sitting on WP.29, has a voice in the formation of vehicle standards – while we, the United Kingdom, who do have an automotive industry (just) and sitting on that UN/UNECE body, are subjucated to the views of the EU – ie, made subordinate or subject to the dominion of someone else. It should also be noted that ‘laws’ on such diverse subjects as fishing, banking, health, for example, all originate from similar bodies – on all of which Norway has a seat.
It should also be noted that where membership of the EEA is concerned that the EEA Agreement is a ‘bespoke’ arrangement in that Norway’s settlement differs from that of Iceland which in turn is different from that of Lichtenstein. Go do the research? It should also be noted that the so-called EFTA/EEA option is not a ‘quick fix’ and would take a great deal of time to implement for the benefit of the United Kingdom – mind you, had we gone for this option three years ago we would be well on the way to ‘leaving’ the European Union by now.
Another misunderstanding, or dare I say ignorance, is that Schengen is part of the EEA; this is incorrect (source). While we have politicians like Greg Hands – who know nowt about ‘matters EU’ – a media and a commentariat likewise possessing ‘ignorant knowledge’ – is it any wonder some of the electorate are unfortunately so endowed?
Finally, let me state that, understandably, while those who wish for a ‘divorce’ from the European Union are no doubt well intentioned, they really do need to do a tad of research about the European Union, ‘matters EU’, the origin of law, etc, etc.