Why Remainers shouldn’t mourn the EEA defeat

Being in the European Economic Area with no say is far inferior to what we have now, writes Best for Britain chief Eloise Todd.

Last week was a busy one. Vote Leave’s Dominic Cummings refused to appear before a Commons Select Committee, David Davis threatened to resign for the fifth time (and didn’t, for the fifth time), and we at Best for Britain launched our Roadmap to a people’s vote – with the option to remain. 

This week, the EU (Withdrawal) Bill returned to the Commons for MPs to vote on Lords’ amendments. The big scalp so far is an automatic ‘no deal’ scenario if the government deal is rejected, with the government agreeing – and then reneging on – a new amendment proposed by Dominic Grieve that effectively kills off that nightmare possibility.

But Brexit is still alive and kicking us all. Among the options discussed is the ‘Norway model’ – leaving the EU, but remaining in the European Economic Area.

The government may have defeated the EEA amendment on Wednesday, and with it the option currently being championed by those who want Brexit to go ahead – but who rightly fear the uncertainty and chaos brought about by leaving. It means staying aligned with the Single Market and therefore protecting trade with the UK’s primary export destinations – our EU partners.

But on closer inspection, the Norway-model isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

By retaining just our EEA membership would not give the UK more power to shape its laws. The single market is a single market for goods, persons, services and capital. Disputes would fall under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Essentially then, we’d be obliged to sign up to all the same rules, but would be stripped of the power to actually shape laws and decide on them. We would also lose any veto power we have in the EU right now, moves that don’t best protect and enhance British interests.

And don’t take my word for it. A whole host of authorities on the topic have pointed out its unsuitability to the UK’s needs. Ivan Rogers, ex-head diplomat to the EU, told the Home Affairs Committee on Tuesday that the EEA was “implausible” as a long-term solution for the UK.

Even the Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, highlighted the need to subscribe to club rules such as freedom of movement and drily asked: “Why should you leave the EU if you are accepting that?”

The real choice for this country on Brexit is between the deal the government brings back and the deal we have a right to until the end of March next year.

So, if the government brings back a deal that looks like the Norway-model, let that be put to the people and compared to our current terms in a people’s vote with an option to remain in the EU.

After years of austerity, the British public deserve the best possible outcome for our country – not accepting a deal that fails to match the bespoke one we’ve been building for over 40 years. Right now, that means building on our future within the EU.

Eloise Todd is CEO of Best for Britain.

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