Open Europe, usually a half-way reliable organisation, has come up with the most extraordinary proposition about Brexit. They estimate that EU regulation costs the UK 33 billion pounds a year. However, they say, if we were to leave and adopt the Norway option, we would still suffer 90% of these costs, with no say in making the rules (though as an MEP, I can tell you – we have pretty little say at the moment). Therefore we can rule out Brexit. The best option is to stay in and renegotiate. This despite the fact that we have now talked about renegotiating for forty years with any success – and despite the fact that the Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has stated in clear terms that no significant changes or exceptions to the Treaties can be contemplated.
Have you spotted the vast and unacceptable implicit – or rather, explicit – assumption on which this preposterous claim is based? “If we adopt the Norway option”.
The fact is that Norway operates in a kind of ante-room to the EU – a no-mans-land where they arguably get the worst of both worlds. Most importantly, they have accepted the EU’s free movement rules, which is one of the major provisions that we want out of. Can you imagine going to the British people and saying “OK guys. We’ve left the EU. But we’re still subject to their free movement rules, and unlimited numbers of unskilled Eastern Europeans can still come to our country”?
Open Europe has made a great case against the Norway option. What it has failed to make is a case against Brexit.
We don’t want to sit in the EU’s ante-room. We don’t want the Norway option. We simply want the UK to be a free, independent, democratic, self-governing nation. We want free trade with Europe (as dozens of other countries around the world have), and we want voluntary inter-governmental cooperation. But we don’t want supranational institutions in foreign countries telling is what to do, and over-ruling our elected parliament.
The Telegraph quotes Pawel Swidlicki, a policy analyst at Open Europe, saying “Adopting a free trade relationship would leave Britain more rather than less vulnerable to red tape, because Norway has no voting powers over EU rules”. Oh yes, Pawel. The same way that the USA, Canada or Korea are subject to EU red tape?