Monday, 26 February 2018

OK, Norway/EFTA option it is then.

Faced with an unexpected narrow majority for Leave in the Referendum, The Powers That Be adopted a simple strategy, make such an unholy mess of it that all but the most hardcore Leavers throw in the towel and say, sod it, let's just stay in. This strategy appears to be working, but only marginally.

My preferred option would be unilateral free trade, that's nice and simple, but it's unlikely that a UK government would ever do something that simple and obvious. As a democrat, I've got to accept that there was only a narrow majority for Leave - we have to respect the 48% as well as the 52% - and a lot of those will have voted Leave out of sheer bloody mindedness in response to the endless Project Fear crapola, which was obviously without substance.

I suppose to some extent, a lot of people who are sticking with Leave are doing it because
a) the EU has revealed its true nature, playground bully from Hell and
b) because they enjoy watching the UK government squirm.

Staying in clearly isn't an option either, that just puts us back to square one, and who knows what vicious treatment the EU will mete out if we go back begging to stay in after all.

Therefore, I personally have decided to bow to those greater minds who really have been looking at this in a fair and dispassionate way for a longer time than I have and think we should try to rejoin EFTA (if they'll still have us), also known as the Norway Option/flexcit, stay in the EEA, and fudge everything else. Given how useless our government is at negotiating, at least we are going for a known known.

Will it be perfect? Depends on what you view as perfect. Will it keep Leavers and Remainers equally un/happy? I would guess so.

Or put it another way, had Cameron come back from his last gasp failed attempt at renegotiation in early 2016 and said "Fuck it, that's it, we are triggering Article 50 right now and applying to rejoin EFTA" I personally would have been over the Moon. I don't see why the context changes that.

Or, even more hypothetically, let's imagine the UK had just stayed in EFTA back in 1973, I guess most people would be happy with the status quo, a few Federalist nutters would be clamouring for full EU membership; a few rabid outsiders would be calling for us to leave EFTA and go it alone, but I doubt that I or the vast majority would be that bothered either way.


jack ketch said...

playground bully from Hell

Hardly. I care for my paranoid psychotic wife 24/7 and I swear I saw the same look
on Trusk's 'boat race' the other day that I see in mirror most evenings. He used the word 'delusional' with good reason.

Derek said...

Will being part of EFTA allow the UK to get rid of VAT? If so it might be okay. If not there's trouble ahead, IMHO. Because the only way that I can see to make Brexit work, is to abolish VAT and replace most other taxes with LVT/CD. In other words the YPP manifesto.

I have long thought that Britain's problems are largely internal. Where the EU has been able ameliorate them it has been a force for good. Where it has prevented internal reform, it has not. Leaving the EU provides the UK with a great opportunity to make the reforms it needs but at the cost of losing our trade advantages. Unfortunately they are reforms that the current rent-seeking government will never make. So it's almost certain that the Britain is going to lose its free trade/freedom of movement advantages without taking advantage of its reform opportunity unless we have a change of government and even that it is no guarantee.

Brexit is a radical change in the UK's situation. And we need to implement radical taxation reform to respond to those changes. Will joining EFTA allow us to make those reforms? If so we should join it, otherwise no. Similarly if we don't have a government that is brave enough to make those reforms to taxation, then joining EFTA is second-best to remaining in the EU, so we might as well join EFTA.

But for me the worst outcome would be to leave, losing all our trade advantages and not making any taxation reforms. Unfortunately that's looking like a possible outcome at the moment.

Mark Wadsworth said...

JK, they started.

MW, VAT is an EU imposed thing, it is not a pre-condition of EFTA/EEA membership I don't think. Kj to confirm?

As to "ameliorating forces", AFAIAC, each layer of govt is another layer of shite, they are cumulative and do not cancel each other out.

Lola said...

I generally agree with Marks post and all the comments so far. The crucial bit is to get out from under the EU and that means Brexit.

Mike W said...

'I have long thought that Britain's problems are largely internal. Where the EU has been able ameliorate them it has been a force for good.'

Good post Derek. Yes that's my wife's position and many other left leaning remainers in a nutshell. I agree with your position on the question of the all important reforms, of course.

Timely post Mark. Reminds us to think about what we expected when we voted to leave. Most of us didn't expect to win, but hoped the result would be so close that the issue wouldn't go away for the weak PM at the time. But we still have to leave. MPs, of all parties, will have to get to grips with some hard thinking on a planned, phased, withdraw and stop with the second referedum stuff. Getting voters to think about withdrawal from EU to EFTA then forward, seems a very good idea. Will take a closer look at the links provided.

Lola said...

MikeW. "The EU being a 'force' for good" Hmm. Well, 'force' is rarely if ever a good thing. And I fundamentally disagree that the EU has done much good at all, and definitely not on a net basis. That is,it has done more harm that it has done good.

In reality pretty well all any Nation's problems are internal - except where they come from a supranational organisation like the EU -the Euro for example, or from external threat or invasion - 20th Century German continental aggression for example.

In any even the UK's internal problems are well known and easy to fix by most of us on here. The 'easy to fix' ignores the political dimension to achieving the fixes. And the EU is never ever going to do any of that - witness its slavish desire to inflict VAT, financial transaction taxes and a revenue tax. All assaults on wealth creation, private property rights and the rule of law.

Largely I voted out because I want the return of all those things and the ability to get change, which due to the deliberately anti-democratic nature of the EU is never ever going to happen.

Mike W said...

Lola above, I was quoting from Derek's post, not my view.

One that Mrs MW holds because she came to believe that the Tories could never be removed from power.In her view, better some 'social democract' constraint from Europe and all that. A commonly held view here, but I could never buy into it.

So I personally agree with you. But in truth, I didn't see the EU as a huge issue for years. More a French problem to be tolerated(allowed them to support their farmers at everybody elses cost, etc, etc). As another blogger has said, a bit like the Republican question for the left. Made peace years ago. Not something to get too upset about. But after the last eight years, no the EU cannot be seen that way. Best we act now before we a fully consumed into a Federal State. Haven't changed my mind and hope to demonstrate to Mrs MW how a British Parliament and our democracy can work,to her satisfaction, some time very soon :)

Bayard said...

"I have long thought that Britain's problems are largely internal. Where the EU has been able ameliorate them it has been a force for good."

I disagree. Where the EU has been able to ameliorate our internal problems, it has made them more bearable and hence reduced the political will to solve them. This is like taking painkillers rather than going to the doctor and being cured. It is not a good thing.

One of the worst reasons put forward for staying in the EU was that they could overrule our crappy governments. The smaller the bad consequences of making the wrong decision, the less care will be taken in making that decision. This applies to voting. like everything else.

paulc156 said...

I think that the principle of tariff free trade and common standards and regs is itself a largely positive and progressive thing. Ideally it should not be constrained by geography but since all nations tend to trade mostly with near neighbours it makes good sense to have such commonality in the European sphere.

To a great extent I presume we have benefited from being in the EU as opposed to being out and governed by a succession of crony capitalist knobheads, such as those who have governed us since the referendum before last.
So anyway...Norway option sounds sensible enough.

DBC Reed said...

On a practical level, there is every indication that Corbyn aims to get the Tory Brexit mutineers to vote with Labour to bring down the government by insisting on staying in a customs union . (Why anybody should seriously propose opting to pay tariffs on our long standing trade with the EU is beyond me.)The public school nitwits that are holding Theresa May hostage will try pressurising the potential mutineers and one tactic that is probable is the "evil taxing Lefties" number, specifically "Don't vote with them , they'll introduce the Garden Tax".
During manic upswings I imagine May realising that there is no way of the Tory blackguards fixing the "broken property market" and restoring their reputation for favouring(bribing)homeowners, in which case, she forms a coalition with Labour saying that common-sense Brexit is a price worth paying for swallowing LVT which anyway is not as bad as it looks. We get back to the good old consensus days when Macmillan was slightly to the left of Gaitskell.Job done. If only!

Lola said...

Paul. The EU is absolutely NOT about tariff free trade. It is all about protectionism. That is the purpose of the SM and the CU. Even internally there are still huge non-tariff barriers on some classes of goods and services between states within the EU. Financial services being the classic.

Mike W said...

'One of the worst reasons put forward for staying in the EU was that they could overrule our crappy governments.'

Bayard, yes 100% agree. Our political class drove many voters to see that Neo Lib/City of London constrained MPs could not be trusted, so many, without any good reason, concluded unelected EU committes in Brussels could. The whole Brexit 'event' exposed to me how low our democracy and parliament had sunk.

DBC Reed,
'in which case, she forms a coalition with Labour' I doubt it.Labour senses a vote of no confidence is near. MP's have to stop with the second referendum stuff, and for the first time in a generation, lead and assert Parliament. (Then, of course, go back to their constituencies and face the consequences of how they voted in the house.) In my view, the coming election will be more like a 'Kharki election'in tone than anything else we have had in modern times. But the MP's have played the 'but we don't have the power: we are constrained by the EU' card too many times over the decade, and this bloody mess will be necessary. I will let the MP's put the biblical reference of their own choice in at this point.