Five concerns for the UK arising from the EU Defence Union

By David Banks. With thanks to The Bruges group on whose website this appeared previously.

There are five main areas which the EU has been pursuing in order to establish what it calls an ‘EU Defence Union’ across the 28 EU countries, including the UK.

  1. Procurement policy and incentives
  2. Finance
  3. Intelligence, Battlegroups and PESCO
  4. UK defeat over HQ
  5. Contradicting statements over UK involvement.

Since 23rd June 2016, the UK has made commitments in each of these above areas of defence with no debate in the British Parliament. Each one is described in more detail below:

  1. Procurement policy and incentives

The UK has agreed to…

    More power for the EU to enforce EU-wide tendering in defence contracts

    An expanding remit for the EU over defence industrial strategy and joint-built assets

    An expanding remit for the EU in purchasing and conduct of joint-owned assets

    Incentives for UK defence companies to engage long-term with the developing EU-wide industrial strategy

The only reason the UK is permitted to build its own aircraft carriers is by using an exemption to the EU Procurement Directive. The exemption is known as the security clause (Article 346) and is permitted when a member state feels there is a national security reason to reserve production for its domestic market. The European Commission is tightening application of the clause following a review in 2016 and has gained the consent of member states to do so. (EU Council Conclusions, 14 November 2016)

The EDA and EU Commission have a benchmark of achieving 35% pan-EU equipment procurement.

(EDA Benchmarks)

UK ministers have approved measures that allow the European Defence Agency to have a greater role in standardisation and certification. (EU Council conclusions in Security Defence, 18th May 2017)

These measures would amplify EU influence in the trading conditions of the defence sector and an additional tool for the enforcement of policy. For example, certification and mutual recognition of standards might be used as a barrier to entry to UK exporters in years ahead in the same way that EU ‘standards’ produce a barrier to non-EU exporters in other sectors. Conversely, certification and standards could be used as an incentive for UK manufacturers and policymakers to adhere to EU policy. Either way, the changes bring a measure of additional control to the European Commission.

The EU refers to EU defence industrial strategy as the European Defence Technology and Industrial Base (EDTIB) and has more recently started using the term ‘Single Market for Defence’. With the objective of ‘reducing duplication, the EU intends to integrate this market under coordinated joint projects and an EU-controlled policy environment. The aim is for the resulting combined EU defence industrial strategy to serve the needs of the EU’s ‘new level of ambition’ in a military context.

This above agreement on standardisation and certification is an additional method of directing the integration of the EDTIB beyond the two already mentioned previously: 1. enforcement of the pan-EU Procurement Directive and 2. financial incentives via the European Defence Fund.

The EU Commission could conceivably tell the UK after Brexit that ‘access’ to its newly coordinated ‘Single Market for Defence’ requires adherence to the Procurement Directive. Also, now that UK participation in the European Defence Fund’s imminent incentive programmes is being concluded, UK ‘withdrawal’ could be viewed by the EU as an act that warrants retaliation or requires UK concessions.

  1. Finance

The UK has agreed to…

    The creation of the EU’s first central military budget, the European Defence Fund

    The use of European Investment Bank money (16% UK shareholding) for the European Defence Fund

    The creation of a Cooperative Financial Mechanism (CFM) to augment the European Defence Agency

    The creation of a Coordinated Annual Review of Defence (CARD), a mechanism which sees the EU offer financial incentives for adherence to EU planning over member state defence budgets.

The European Defence Fund will begin with a budget of only a few billion euros, but this money will be dangled in front of policy makers and defence companies to steer them towards joint activity and a policy environment that is under EU authority.

Millions of euros have already been placed into an “unprecedented level of engagement” with defence companies including defence industry conferences in the UK financed by the EU Commission, which started in April (Southampton) and are continuing throughout 2017 (Bournemouth etc).

UK companies are being invited to bid for the first tranche of European Defence Fund money in June 2017, via an EU Commission / EDA programme known as PADR (Preparatory Action for Defence Research). The programme is even being promoted by the UK Defence Solutions Centre, a UK-Government-funded unit which was formed to boost output of UK defence companies.

According to the EU Commission and EEAS, the Cooperative Financial Mechanism “will strengthen the European Defence Agency” as a central EU defence capabilities tool. The mechanism appears to be separate to the European Defence Fund. It is designed to manage member states’ money in a joint budget and will be spent on EDA research projects, military units conjoined under Permanent Structured Cooperation and joint assets.

This added financial firepower for the EDA overrides many years of policy by UK ministers who argued that the EDA’s scope and budget should be restricted. (European Defence Agency ministerial steering board, 18th May 2017)

The UK Government has a 16% (EUR 39 billion) stake in the EIB, the same as Italy, France and Germany (the four largest shareholders). The EU Commission is changing the lending criteria of the EIB to ensure it supports the European Defence Fund. The EIB is an instrument of the EU and operates in adherence to EU policy. There has been no confirmation of whether the UK will withdraw from the EIB, but to remain a shareholder would mean a level of participation in EU policy. The EIB has placed funds into infrastructure projects in the UK including Crossrail and the Manchester Metrolink.

The UK’s consent to EIB funding for UK defence industries provides the EU with additional locks on UK participation in EU defence policy and on its EIB shareholding. These additional locks were made after the UK’s referendum on EU membership and add to the task of unravelling these links after Brexit.

  1. Intelligence, Battlegroups and PESCO

The UK has agreed to…

    An increased size, scope and infrastructure of the EU’s military intelligence agency as a central ‘hub’.

    Participation in a 2019 EU Battlegroup under EU Council control. Approval given pre-referendum. No confirmation from MOD about whether it is cancelled or continuing.

    Drop objections to Permanent Structured Cooperation (first version of permanent military unification) by willing member states. MOD will not confirm whether the UK is staying out or not.

The European External Action Service (the EU’s ‘foreign ministry’) has put forward plans to grow the role of its intelligence agency known as the Single Intelligence Analysis Capacity (SIAC). (EU Council conclusions in Security Defence, 6 March 2017 and 18 May 2017).

SIAC is composed of the EU Military Staff Intelligence Directorate and the ‘civilian’ EU INTCEN. The EU Council agreed to develop them as an EU “hub for strategic information, early warning and comprehensive analysis”.

Member States, including the UK, have been asked to consider initiatives and ways to interact with these plans. (Security and Defence Implementation Plan, 14 November 2016).

The UK was scheduled to lead an EU Battlegroup in Jan-Jun 2019. The MOD will not state whether Britain’s participation will be cancelled or proceed.

The UK has agreed to…

 The reordering of EU agencies to include ‘permanent planning’ of EU defence missions and a ‘coordinated military command chain’.

    The creation of a permanent military HQ with staff responsible for strategy and operations. It was kept as a non-executive function of the EU, but executive power over EU military developments rests with the EU Council and EU Commission.

    Drop its objections to the wordings that describe the new HQ (May 2017) because previous approval in March 2017 had made later objections invalid.

The EU Council, with UK consent, has agreed to reorder the European External Action Service to “develop the necessary structures and capabilities for the permanent planning and conduct of CSDP missions and operations” with “distinct but coordinated civilian and military chains of command”.

These will work under the political control, strategy and leadership of the EU Council’s Political and Security Committee.

(EU Council Conclusions, 14th November 2016, with UK ministerial approval. Confirmed by EU Council heads of government conclusions, 15th December 2016)

The plans include the creation of an operational HQ, the Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC). While the UK made an issue of the MPCC being prevented from having executive powers, this was a pointless fight as the executive power over the MPCC’s deployments already resides with the EU Council.

(EU Council Conclusions, 6th March 2017. Confirmed by EU Council conclusions, 18th May 2017)

  1. Contradicting statements over UK involvement.

The UK has agreed to…

    Participate in measures that apply to UK defence without the approval of Parliament, nor even a debate.

    Participate in developing plans until at least March 2019, possibly March 2022 or even longer.

    Provide the EU with several new powers over UK defence and a new bargaining chip for the EU.

    Accept measures that mean a more complicated and time-consuming withdrawal process that the UK didn’t face before the first of the EU Defence Union agreements in November 2016.

    Provisional statements on PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) while keeping open the prospect of UK participation in PESCO and the EU Council-controlled EU Battlegroups in 2019.

Each time new agreements are made, additional hours will need to be spent on severing EU ties and controls. New agreements are currently being formed in finance, intelligence, regulation, procurement strategy, joint assets, joint missions and research. This will impact upon several departments of government.

The duration of UK involvement might be expected to be until March 2019 (the anticipated end of Britain’s membership) and possibly March 2022 (end of a three-year transition deal which requires adherence to EU policy) and potentially even longer. Until then, even adhering to new EU measures (in finance, intelligence, regulation, procurement strategy, joint assets, joint missions and research) will add complexity to the UK’s exit negotiations, potentially extending the duration of the exit process.

Not a single one of these agreements at the EU Council has ever been mentioned in the House of Commons, let alone subject to a vote by MPs. All defence agreements at the EU Council take the UK further down the road of military integration and have had an immediate effect regarding UK participation. The EU Commission immediately embarked on a dialogue with UK defence companies about incentives to participate in EU defence integration projects.

EU Council conclusions are considered by the EU commission to have been co-authored by UK diplomats. Therefore, if a minister does not raise objection during an EU Council meeting, conclusions are considered to represent a joint direction, or consent, of all member states.

The EU Commission has stated that agreements the UK enters as a member state “must be carried out in full” while the UK remains subject to the EU’s treaties.

In addition, the EU has said it is not willing to even begin to discuss UK withdrawal from EU defence arrangements until a withdrawal agreement has been settled and “all other matters” agreed, because defence is “too important to be a part of the main negotiations”. This means the UK will be obliged to adhere to these rapidly developing measures for at least two years to 2019 and there is a real possibility of the UK being tied in for an additional transition period of three years up to 2022.

The Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan wrote to the European Scrutiny Committee chairman in December 2016 to inform the committee of the plans and agreements the UK was entering, as is required under UK Parliamentary protocols. Sir Alan Duncan told the committee there were parts of the Security and Defence Implementation Plan (SDIP) which his team ‘liked’ and no decision had yet been made over the quantum of UK involvement and for how long. This may be contrasted with the Foreign Secretary’s October and November statements that the UK did not wish to prevent the EU27 from participating in agreements in which the UK had no interest itself in participating.

The European Scrutiny Committee marked Sir Alan Duncan’s letter and corresponding agreements as ‘politically important’ to have them discussed in the relevant Parliamentary Select Committees of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Exiting the EU.

Meanwhile, the EU Commission will know it may now employ all of the UK’s recent set of agreements in defence as a bargaining chip, a threat, a delaying tactic and a deepening ‘binding agent’ to EU membership. It is conceivable that EU officials will cite the example of UK defence companies who have the promise of European Defence Fund money as a means of influencing or undermining perceptions among UK observers or negotiators in the realm of defence.

Finally, an answer we received from the MOD (19th May 2016) said that the British government had not ruled out joining PESCO in spite of its control by EU Council and CSDP:

“Decisions on UK engagement with CSDP after we leave the EU, including with initiatives such as PESCO, will be part of the wider negotiations.”

A UK Rep spokesperson had earlier (18th May 2016) told us the UK might participate in the EU Battlegroups after Brexit, which is also controlled by the EU and CSDP.

Photo by Doppeladler

Brexit – the Irish angle

Nigel Dodds, the Deputy  leader of the Democratic Unionist Party who leads the party’s MPs in Westminster, responded  to the recent Queen’s Speech by saying, “Let me make it very clear – I believe when people voted in the European Union referendum to leave the European Union that they voted to leave the single market and customs union. And I believe that Northern Ireland must, along with the rest of the United Kingdom, do likewise.” He added, “We must not get into a situation where we have borders erected between the island of Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.”

The status of the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic – the only land border between a newly-independent UK and the EU – is  one of three issues which the EU wants to settle before trade talks can begin. Professor Anthony Coughlan, the veteran Irish Anti-EU campaigner, has proposed that the best way of resolving this problem is Irexit – in other words, the Republic of Ireland should leave the EU as well. He argues that is is logically the best thing to do, even though it is “unpalatable” for many in the Republic.  “If one quarter of the Irish people and one fifth of Ireland’s land area are going to leave the EU because they are part of the UK, has the rest of the country any real alternative but to follow, however reluctantly?” he asks.

It is the Republic, not the UK, which will be the big loser from Brexit if it stays in the EU, he argues. “Dublin and London want to maintain the common Anglo-Irish free travel and trade area. But if the Republic opts to stay in the EU when Northern Ireland and Britain leave it, it is the Republic of Ireland, not Britain, that will be putting the common area at risk. London has Dublin over the proverbial barrel on this.  It can bend Dublin to its will if it so wishes.  There is no international law or moral right to a free-movement facility like this between two different sovereign States.”

He also highlights the problems caused by the EU’s desire for closer military integration, a subject which Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, highlighted as a priority three days ago.  “If the Republic remains in the EU when the UK leaves, it means that it will become part of an EU military bloc under German hegemony.  That can hardly be in the security interests of the UK.

As an aside, it is interesting that Professor Coughlan, looking at our current situation from across the Irish Sea, takes a far more measured approach than some of the ridiculous headlines we have seen in the press recently. “The fundamental point to grasp about the post-UK-general-election situation is that Brexit is going to happen, whether under Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn or someone else. The UK is going to cease being an EU Member State.  The only issue still open is how long this will take.” Absolutely. What is more, a recent communication from the European Council on the subject of relocating the EU agencies currently based in the UK (the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Banking Authority (EBA)) says the same thing:- “As the United Kingdom has notified the European Council under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union of its intention to leave the Union, it is necessary to move the two United Kingdom-based Agencies to other locations within the Union’s territory.” Whatever the rhetoric, the EU is gearing up for Brexit.

Yes, we are going to leave, even if the timescale and route of our exit are still uncertain. As far as the impact of Brexit on the Irish Republic is concerned, the next few years will be very interesting. The country has recovered from the Great Recession better than the other so-called “PIIGS” (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain). Unemployment stood at 6.4% and youth unemployment at 12% in April, compared with more than 20% and 45% respectively for Greece. Furthermore, the Irish housing market, which took a battering in the Recession, has recovered. Nonetheless, the country is one of few in the Eurozone which may return to deflation. Given that the €uro has been the  culprit for all of Ireland’s recent economic woes, the chance to escape its straitjacket may become more appealing as Brexit draws nearer.

 

 

Can it really be done?

In just over 21 months time, we will hopefully be leaving the EU. With the exception of military matters and the European Arrest Warrant, Mrs May’s objective appears to be for the UK to enjoy a looser relationship with the EU than that of any other European country which is not a member state, apart from countries like Belorus and Russia.

After all, all four EFTA countries (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) are part of the Schengen area while several micro-states including Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican City use the Euro. Turkey is part of the EU’s Customs Union while Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are, of course, part of the European Economic Area.

Can we realistically expect to reach a greater degree of detachment than these countries by March 2019? The Government has not gone into any detail about how it proposes to achieve such a radical divorce in a very short space of time, but the Bruges Group published a booklet earlier this year, entitled  What will it look like? How leaving the single market can be made to work for Britain. Two of the authors, Robert Oulds and Dr Lee Rotherham, are CIB Committee members.

The problem with staying in the European Economic Area by rejoining EFTA is that it would not resolve the customs clearance issue. We do need a customs agreement with the EU, as a lack of a deal in this area is the biggest problem which our trade with the EU would face. (Just to reiterate, a customs agreement is totally different from remaining in the customs union which, as we have pointed out, is irrelevant as far as Brexit is concerned.)

By contrast, standards compliance rarely causes delays. Another red herring is the issue of access to the EU’s financial services market. It can be accessed from outside the EEA, as the authors explain.

The key to a successful trade deal lies in identifying the potential problems early on, which the authors seek to do in this publication.

With the terms “Hard” and “Soft” Brexit bandied about without everyone being agreed on what this means, the authors claim that there is no such thing as a truly “Hard” Brexit. but  there are significant obstacles to be overcome. Nonetheless, a trade agreement between the EU and the UK, focused on tariff reduction and clearing customs, could take just 18 months to complete.

The authors explain why UK’s bargaining position is stronger than many commentators believe. Given that David Davis has already had to concede to his EU counterpart’s demands that talks on a trade deal cannot begin until other exit arrangements have been agreed, any strong cards in his hand will, I am sure, be most appreciated.

 

 

Fishing for Leave Threatens Another Flotilla if Establishment Continues to Prevaricate

Contact: Alan Hastings, [email protected], 07827 399 408

 

A year ago the Fishing for Leave Flotilla proceeded up the Thames to the heart of our capital with a flotilla of 30 vessels.

To take our cry for a better future to the heart of government as the most prominent demonstration of the Brexit campaign – if the government does not start to deliver or backslides on Brexit we’ll be back!

The vessels represented all sizes, sectors and all areas, making a tremendous effort and sacrifice and coming together as never before with dignity to answer their country’s call when others shamefully would not.  Some suggested it was the difference in the vote.

The SFF and NFFO that purport to represent the industry continued their ambivalence towards British withdrawal and hid behind the guise of ‘neutrality’ despite 90% of their members crying to escape the EU.

The sight of all types and sizes of vessels from all areas of the country proceeding through an icon of Britain at Tower Bridge made many hearts swell with pride and eyes fill with tears.

Had it not been for Fishing for Leave there would have been no voice for the most pro-Brexit industry. FFL has continued unabated since, representing our industry vociferously in the corridors of power.

HOWEVER, we still have our grave concerns on the commitment of the political establishment to Brexit. The ridiculous and unnecessary election and its result has inflamed calls to remain and ignore the wishes of the British people and the rhetoric is still not being matched by results with continued prevarication on the way forward.

FFL  have challenged and brought the issues below to the fore but so far, all we have had is words not action –

  • The London Fisheries Convention 1964 – there is a manifesto commitment but the 2 years notice that should have been given to concur with Article 50 has still not been served and there is now a danger of an overlap of continued EU access to UK waters on withdrawal.
  • The Great Repeal Bill proposes to adopt all EU law including the disastrous Common Fisheries Policy into UK law. If we are leaving the CFP, why run the risk of adopting it? Despite highlighting that adopting EU law would bind Britain to them under international treaty law the government ploughs ahead to a diplomatic disaster regardless.
  •  The deliberately ambiguous wording of the Conservative manifesto which means the UK would only “exercise sovereign control” waters only to 12 miles not the full 200 or midline limit.

Fishing will be one of the acid tests of the success of Brexit. FFL will continue to go forward and hope that the election leads to a fulfilment not a cop-out. Brexit and the will of the people cannot be backslid on post-election.

It is disconcerting the political establishment is now at fever pitch for “soft”/No Brexit. We are in perilous territory and after a discussion FFL are considering further demonstrations to ensure the politicians fulfil the will of our industry and country.

We will take whatever action necessary. Should there be a backsliding, we’ll be back up the Thames to bring London to a halt!

Irexit – no longer totally pie-in-the sky

Professor Anthony Coughlan, the veteran Irish pro-withdrawalist, was invited to make a submission to the Irish Senate’s Special Select Committee on Brexit on 1st June.

Professor Coughlan explained that, in his opinion, the most rational and sensible course for the Irish Government to follow in relation to Brexit is that it should activate the East-West strand of the Good Friday Agreement to concert a joint approach with the UK Government aimed at  Ireland leaving the European Union at or around the same time as the UK and that it should work towards an Ireland/UK agreement and an Ireland/EU agreement oriented to that end.

He also made the point that there are no significant advantages for the Irish republic remaining in the EU when the UK leaves, but rather major disadvantages. He also addressed the implications of Brexit on the border with Northern Ireland and claimed that, in his view, prospects for the eventual reunification of the island of Ireland* would be greatly diminished if Ireland remains in the EU.

Professor Coughlan expects that support for Irexit is likely to grow in the coming two years. Mind you, he may revise his opinion if Brexit goes badly!  We pointed out a couple of months ago that he is no longer the lone voice he appeared to be a few years back. The Irish Republic, formerly a net recipient of EU funding, is now a net donor, while its trade with the UK was the main reason for it joining the EEC together with us in 1973. The EU, in other words, is no longer so attractive as it once was.

The submission can be downloaded here and the second annex (which is longer than the submission)  can be downloaded here.

* It should be pointed out that support for Irish reunification is not confined to Sinn Féin and hard line Republicans. In 1999, the former Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Ireland were replaced Article 3.1 which “recognises that a united Ireland shall be brought about only by peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the people, democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions in the island” – in other words, an united Ireland still remains a legitimate aspiration for many peace-loving Irishmen, even if we may disagree with them on this, – unless, of course, it was in the context of an application by the Irish Republic to re-join the UK!

Rejection of Theresa May’s little Englander ‘Brexit’ is splendid news

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. This article first appeared in the Daily Telegraph.

For liberal, free-market Brexiteers, the election shock is a gift from Mount Olympus. We are dancing cartwheels and quaffing our sparkling Kentish wines.

Theresa May’s plummeting star is an entirely unexpected chance to refashion British withdrawal from the European Union along different lines. It re-opens the possibility of a ‘Norwegian’ solution or close variant, an option that she shut down prematurely without debate because it limits her ability to control inflows of EU workers.

Mrs May sees Brexit through the fatal prism of migration, borders, and criminal justice – the déformation professionnelle of the Home Office – strangely oblivious to the immense economic risks of pursuing a narrow strategy to the detriment of all else.

Her vision is irksome to those of us who backed Brexit chiefly in order to restore the law-making prerogatives of Parliament, and to keep a safe distance from an EU that must evolve into a unitary political state if the euro is to survive. Such a destiny is self-evidently incompatible with British democracy and self-rule.

Mrs May is a Remainer who tries too hard to compensate. She has misunderstood the subtleties of Brexit, hijacked the Referendum for the better part of a year, twisted its contours, and seems unaware how her strategy is playing into a corrosive and false narrative taking hold in the world: that the British people are turning nasty and nationalist. So let us begin again.

The shrunken Tories will have to rely on the Ulster Unionists (DUP), who will not brook a hard economic border with the Republic of Ireland.

They will also have to listen more attentively to the Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and with her triumphant vanguard of Westminster MPs. She is pressing for the “largest amount of access” to the EU single market.

The balance of political power has changed. To the extent that this safeguards the unity of these Isles – the foremost priority – it is a blessing.

The election was not a rejection of Brexit, as Europe’s press seems to suppose. Some 84% of votes went to Brexit parties. But it was certainly a rejection of Mrs May’s particular variant of Brexit. Call it ‘hard’ if you wish. I prefer to call it insular, pedantic, and illiberal.

The natural fit at this stage is the European Economic Area (EEA), the Norwegian option that was once held out as the Holy Grail by Brexiteers of gradualist philosophy, but was subsequently rubbished by the tub-thumpers and Burka banners. The party of this ideology secured 1.8pc of the vote on Thursday, nota bene. It has no legitimate veto over anything.

The EEA would in principle allow Britain to preserve open trade with the EU single market and retain passporting rights for the City of London, the goose that lays the golden egg for a very vulnerable British economy.

“We should use the EEA as a vehicle to lengthen the transition time,” said Lord (David) Owen, one-time Labour foreign secretary and doyen of the EEA camp.

“Theresa May’s massive mistake has been to allow talk of a hard Brexit to run and run, and to refuse to frame a deal in a way that makes sense for the Europeans. The logic of the EEA is irrefutable,” he said.

Lord Owen said the EU’s withdrawal clause, ‘Article 50’, is designed as a deterrent to stop any country leaving. It leads to a cliff-edge, facing Britain with a take-it or leave-it choice when the clock stops ticking. “This puts us in a dangerous position,” he said. The EEA is a way to overleap this Article 50 trap.

Meredith Crowley, a trade expert at Cambridge University, says the great worry is that tariff barriers into the EU will jump to 12pc or 15pc overnight on UK exports of cars, engines, auto parts, and a range of machinery, setting off an exodus of foreign investment. “Joining the EEA would shut that threat down,” she said.

Critics argue that the Norwegian route is tantamount to remaining in the EU, but on worse terms, with no vote over policy: “While they pay, they don’t have a say,” said David Cameron before the Referendum.

This is a canard. EEA states are exempt from the EU’s farming and fisheries policies, as well as from foreign affairs, defence, and justice. They are free from great swathes of EU dominion established by the Amsterdam, Nice, and Lisbon Treaties.

Above all, EEA states are not subject to the European Court’s (ECJ) limitless writ over almost all areas of law through elastic invocation of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The ECJ would no longer be able to exploit the Charter – in breach of Britain’s opt-out under Protocol 30 – whenever it feels like it. We would no longer be under an EU supreme court asserting effective sovereignty. These are not small matters. They are elemental.

Yes, the Norwegian option is a compromise. We would continue paying into the EU budget. This would do much to defuse the escalating showdown over the €100bn bill for EU reparations, poisonous because of the way it is presented. The transfers would become an access fee instead. Norway’s net payments in 2014 were £106 a head. Let us not die in a ditch over such trivia.

Britain would have to tolerate relatively open flows of migrant workers. But contrary to widespread belief, the EEA does not entail full acceptance of the EU’s “four freedoms” – movement of goods, services, capital, and people. Nor does it give the European Court full sway on these issues.

The arrangement allows “a lesser degree” of free movement than within the EU. The language covers the issue of residence, an entirely different matter from the rights of EU citizenship created by the Maastricht Treaty. The EEA permits the sort of emergency brake on migrant flows that was denied to Mr Cameron in his last-ditch talks with the EU before the Referendum.

The point in any case is that the EEA would be a temporary way-station for ten years or so, giving us time to negotiate 80 trade deals with the US, China, Japan, India, Mercorsur, and others without a gun held to our head.

Britain is a contracting party to the EEA. The agreement is binding on all members, and entails rights under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Yes, we would need the goodwill of the EEA-trio of Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein, and the EU itself.

It is possible that some in the EU are now so intent on punishing Britain – or carving up post-Brexit spoils – that they would stop us pursuing this course. But that would be a hostile act. It would certainly clarify the issue. We would then know exactly what the real agenda was in Brussels. It is better to know this sooner rather than later.

There is no such thing as a soft Brexit. Wise statecraft can nevertheless work through this thicket. The EEA option is the best political solution on offer given the new circumstances. It is a graceful way out of the impasse for all parties, not least for a divided EU with a looming budget crunch and a mountain of other problems to deal with.

Tory ultras might balk at a settlement so far short of total liberation. I balk myself whenever I have to listen to the insolence of Jean-Claude Juncker. Yet Tory ultras did not win a mandate in this election for their hair-raising adventure into uncharted waters.

The vote changed the dynamics of Brexit. Compromise is now ineluctable. Jeremy Corbyn and his army of the young may have done this nation a favour.