Sometimes in life it is not enough just to achieve a goal or objective, for whenever you get there, wherever there is, inevitably there is more to do. Certainly, that is the case today for UKIP as a party.
We had the vision and carried the argument to persuade the people of this country to leave the European Union, but the job is not complete and requires our participation again. We must now offer a tangible and workable alternative to the EU which must appeal to both Brexiters and remoaners. We must fill the void of confusion which exists now at Westminster and the political parties who are turning the leaving process into a farce.
The Tories clearly have no idea about how to exit the EU, with Labour now calling for UK to remain not only in the single market but also the custom union and the Lib Dems wanting to reverse the referendum result.
On reflection as a committed UKIP supporter and anti-EU activist it has become apparent to me that we as a party should suggest an alternative way forward, with conviction and with a cohesive argument.
My view is that we should embrace membership of EFTA (European Free Trade Association) until the UK has paid what it dutifully owes the EU; at the same time, our country develops into its new role in the world. EFTA would allow the UK to make its own trade agreements and laws, control immigration while at the same time still getting the benefits of the EU (single market) without being forced to accept everything else we despise about the EU.
The following is from the EFTA website;
The Association is responsible for the management of:
The EFTA Convention, which forms the legal basis of the organisation and governs free trade relations between the EFTA States;
EFTA’s worldwide network of free trade and partnership agreements; and
The European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement, which enables three of the four EFTA Member States (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) to participate in the EU’s Internal Market.
EFTA membership pretty much ticks all the boxes for every argument surrounding Brexit, if we join EFTA we not only keep access the single market but also benefit from the 24 trade agreements with 38 countries across the world which EFTA have in place, these include some significant countries and economies, many from within the Commonwealth.
Additionally, Norway for example actively participates in the decision processes within the EU, it does not have a vote in Brussels but it does have a veto in its own parliament. Incidentally only about a third of EU directives and rules are applied to EFTA members, and they apply only to those businesses that trade with the EU directly.
Sure, free movement of people apply, but I am convinced that we will continue to let EU citizens in for years to come given what Labour/Lib Dems/Greens etc want, and many of our businesses are asking for. But that is manageable given EFTA countries can put restrictions in place over which state benefits are applied to citizens from other country.
We will get less European migrants arriving here for work going forward anyway, simply because the pound is so weak against the euro, there are better paid jobs in Germany etc, also there is more work in eastern Europe as their economies grow, Poland now relies on workers from Ukraine to fill their job vacancies, ironic or what?
It is immigration from outside the EU that is and should be our main point of concern.
The EFTA courts could rule on UK disputes with EU as it does now on disputes between the EU and EFTA members. As we would become the dominant member of EFTA, our economy and size of population dwarfs the existing EFTA members, we would automatically have a British judge appointed. This would kill the argument about EU courts still wanting jurisdiction over British courts.
There have always been a couple of negative arguments put forward against membership of EFTA, one is some EU rules will apply to British businesses and we would have no say over them, I would argue that’s the case now so nothing changes.
EFTA members must pay to be members of the EEA, but it looks like we are going to have to pay somewhere in the region of £30 billion to leave anyway, so lets pay it as an EFTA/EEA fee, seems sensible and everyone can claim credit for sorting out a thorny issue, ‘our divorce settlement’.
Our transition from the EU to EFTA would avoid the suggested cliff edge scenario but forward by ill-informed remoaners, although I perceive it to be a myth anyway, but allow us to move gently away from the EU and develop our trading and political arrangement with countries throughout the world.
For the EU member states, it meets their needs of money from the UK and access to one of their biggest export market. EFTA is by its own definition an arm’s length member of the EU, a kid brother if you will. 10 Years membership would seem sensible and take the heat out of everything that is going on now with the Brexit negotiations.