Q: WHEN IS BREXIT NOT BREXIT?
A: WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORDS EEA OR EFTA
A simple explainer from the Brexit Facts4EU.Org Team
In the last two weeks, press articles have started appearing again regarding the EEA and EFTA. Some misguided folk have once again started using this as a ‘compromise’ solution for Brexit.
What is EFTA and what’s the EEA?
Could they give the UK what we voted for?
Are they a good half-way house on the road to full Brexit?
1. WHAT IS EFTA?
The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) consists of 4 countries: Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The UK was a founder member in 1960, when EFTA established “a framework for the liberalization of trade in goods amongst its Member States” and “an economic counterbalance to the more politically driven European Economic Community (EEC).” [EFTA description.]
As EFTA countries such as the UK started joining the EU, they left EFTA, which is why it now contains only 4 countries.
Over the decades EFTA has become more like the EU, with its own court adopting the rulings of the ECJ. EFTA’s countries are all members of the EEA (see below) except Switzerland.
2. WHAT IS THE EEA?
The European Economic Area (EEA) was set up in 1994 to extend the EU’s provisions on its internal market to the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries. Switzerland is a member of EFTA but does not take part in the EEA.
The EEA consists of the 28 EU countries, plus 3 non-EU countries of Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland. That’s 31 countries in total.
The UK is already a member of the EEA by virtue of being a member of the EU.
3. COULD MEMBERSHIP OF EFTA/EEA GIVE US WHAT WE VOTED FOR?
EFTA is governed by the EFTA Surveillance Authority and the EFTA Court. Whilst the EFTA Court is ostensibly separate from the EU’s European Court of Justice (ECJ), in practice it adopts its rulings.
So, EFTA membership means accepting jurisdiction of the ECJ via the EFTA Court.
Membership of the EEA means membership of the Single Market. This in turn means having to abide by the EU’s four enslavements, which means the UK would still have to accept uncontrolled immigration and would not control its borders.
As stated above, Switzerland is a member of EFTA but not of the EEA. However Switzerland has over 120 bilateral agreements with the EU in relation to trade and other matters. Any suggestion that the UK would wish to embroil itself in negotiations with the EU over a similar (or probably much larger) number of bilateral agreements is fraught with danger.
The EU is deeply unhappy with Switzerland’s current status and it’s certain that they would not wish to see another country go down this path. Specifically, the EU is in dispute with Switzerland because of the principles of uncontrolled immigration and the single market. The Swiss people had the temerity in 2014 to vote against uncontrolled immigration, which has put the country into increasing conflict with the EU ever since.
4. IS THE EFTA/EEA OPTION A GOOD HALF-WAY HOUSE ON THE ROAD TO FULL BREXIT?
A small minority of campaigners have long advocated an EFTA/EEA arrangement as a halfway-house on the way to full Brexit. They and an increasing number of Remainers claim that reverting to an EFTA/EEA status gets around the ‘problem’ of leaving the Single Market – by not leaving at all!
However, any possible EFTA/EEA option immediately comes up against the EU’s four enslavements, including uncontrolled immigration, and as EFTA themselves say: “the common rules of the EEA Agreement are updated continuously with new EU legislation.”
In effect, access to the Single Market via EFTA and EEA membership leaves the UK where it was in many respects, and it would still require an enormous amount of negotiation.
A look at the breakdown of the EFTA countries shows how strange it would be for the UK to join. Two of the four countries are tiny – Iceland with a population of 320,000 and little Liechtenstein with a population of just 37,000. The economies of Norway (5m people) and Switzerland (8m) are both very different to that of the United Kingdom.
If – as we have always maintained – the EU will not negotiate a sensible deal with the UK, Remainers will become even more vocal about the supposed ‘cliff edge’ which Britain will fall off unless it caves in on a wide range of fundamental Brexit principles.
We would strongly counsel against any idea that an existing set-up represents the answer to an interim arrangement for the UK. The British people voted to leave the EU and not to have the EU’s suffocating rules imposed on it by the back door, for an indeterminate number of years to come.
The story of Brexit thus far has been the story of slow but steady capitulation by Theresa May to virtually every EU demand. The deal which is currently on the table is not Brexit at all but Brino. It has the UK staying in the EU in all but name after March 2019. The last thing we need now is for the failed EEA/EFTA alphabet soup ‘solution’ to be thrust on us. Even Oliver Twist would reject this thin gruel.
The arguments over an EEA/EFTA solution to Brexit were fought and won before the Referendum.
Our summary is that a full clean Brexit is what is required, and that this is impossible to deliver using some form of EEA/EFTA so-called compromise. It is not possible to be a little bit pregnant.[Sources: EFTA | EU Commission | EU Parliament] 06.25am, 22 May 2018