• Toby Irwin

Mitigating Brexit, The Strategy to Find the Middle Ground

The countdown towards Brexit continues to march on, and government still seems to be unable to agree on a unanimous and comprehensive exit strategy. The UK remains stuck between a rock and a hard place, between a hard, no deal Brexit and the soft Chequers Agreement that does not satisfy the bulk of Brexiteers. So, what is the solution? The calls for a second referendum may appear tempting, but ultimately should not be taken seriously. Not only was the possibility for a second referendum dismissed recently by the Prime Minister, but also is impractical given the fixed date for leaving in March next year and the realities of organising, campaigning and executing a referendum. Thankfully, there is another option. I recently wrote about the EFTA route in a previous article, and I will expand on this today.

A new grassroots campaign has recently been launched by Nick Boles MP, pushing for what he describes as a Better Brexit. This strategy involves leaving the EU in March 2019 but remaining in the European Economic Area, this allows continued access to the Single Market. To achieve this would mean applying to join the EFTA (European Free Trade Association) at the earliest possible opportunity. Joining the EFTA is not only largely desired from EFTA members Norway and Iceland but also feasibly executable within the time frame remaining.

Once inside the EFTA, and consequently still in the European Economic Area, the government can negotiate from a position of strength and stability whether it desires to stay in the EFTA or undergo a steady transition to a new interim agreement.

The EFTA route to remain in the EEA has many benefits that hopefully offset any concerns that hard-line Brexiteers have about a supposed ‘half-in-half-out’ position. These benefits are highlighted in a recent paper published by George Trefgarne Norway then Canada, A new strategy to avoid a Brexit smash. These benefits include, but are not limited to:

- Economic stability and certainty to resume sterling integrity and investment

- The City of London would retain passporting rights for its vast financial services sector

- While remaining in the Single Market, it would be outside the Customs Union allowing trade deals to be struck elsewhere

- It removes the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK

- It allows withdrawal from the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Looking North from the Thames towards St Paul's Cathedral and the City

Furthermore, Mr Trefgarne explains the legal position by suggesting that the UK could force the EU to accept its continued participation in the EEA by calling on the legal authority of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. The EU has been accused of putting integrationist policy ahead of the realities of maintaining good relations between its individual member states, including the departing UK. Consequently, as he notes in his paper:

“The EU is perfectly entitled to assert its sovereign political interest, just as we are entitled to assert ours”

To register interest in this new strategy, and read more about the plan, then visit Mr Boles’ website at BetterBrexit.org.uk. Further, I recommend Mr Trefgarne’s new paper which is available to purchase at Amazon here.

At the time of writing, Toby Irwin is a second year student at the University of St Andrews. He is studying Modern History and International Relations. Areas that interest him the most are UK defence strategy and foreign policy.