Thursday, 22 September 2016

Do the anti EEA crowd even know what British exit from it will entail?

Last Friday the pages of City AM played host to an op-ed by Global Britain's Brian Monteith, in which he declares 'the Single Market is the problem – not the solution'.

Having read the piece after it was linked on Facebook the question I'm left asking is, how can Monteith or the article be taken seriously? 

For example, nowhere in the piece is there any mention of non-trade barriers, which are potentially far more harmful to British exporters than the tariffs he focusses on. There is also no recognition of the fact there are no commercial customs facilities in place to deal with goods entering continental Europe from the UK, which will be needed if the UK exits the EEA.

Also Monteith either fails to grasp or deliberately ignores the chasm of difference between participation in the single market and trading with its member countries, instead using the meaningless 'access' descriptor. This is something I have covered previously on the blog.

Perhaps when Monteith starts considering the real world implications of leaving the EEA and shares some evidence of knowledge and understanding, people can assess his arguments in a balanced way. But the piece he splurged on City AM is essentially useless.

Continued participation in the EEA is an invaluable first step after Brexit. From a trade and regulation perspective it keeps things as they are, giving stability and certainty to our commercial and finance sectors and maintaining inclusion in useful programmes, after we cease to be an EU member state and cease to be bound by the European Court of Justice. Continued participation in the EEA would enable the UK to negotiate a new settlement with the EU without time pressures or uncertainty.

It is a fact that the UK would have to become a member of EFTA once again in order to enable continued participation in the EEA. That means paying contributions to EFTA for administration of EEA participation. Like Norway the UK would also be required to make payments to various institutions and initiatives to help fund programmes and development of east European countries. 

But looking at the big picture, the sums would be significantly less than our EU budget contributions and not remitted directly to the EU itself to fund the bloc's activities. It would be worth the cost and likely represent a saving on the costs of mitigating impacts of leaving the EEA and getting to a position where goods can move efficiently from Britain to the continent.