No deal is not an option

Could food, medicines and petrol run out in the event of a no deal scenario? The short answer is yes, absolutely. It only takes a small disruption to sophisticated supply chains for things to grind to a halt.

Leaving the EU without a deal means becoming a third country overnight. The status of having no formal trade relations. The UK would not exist as an entity anywhere inside the EU legal framework. We would be subject to third country customs controls without any of the single market product approvals or valid certification.

If you don’t have the valid paperwork for your goods to circulate freely in the market then you have to find a named importer and have your products re-certified inside the EU – at considerable cost. Some classes of foodstuffs must be diverted to border inspection posts.

So that means if we go from single market members to being a third country then overnight the ports back up, Operation Stack goes into effect and lorries are sat on the motorway for days. That takes trucks and drivers out of circulation. The normal flow of supply chains is interrupted.

Remember this works both ways for trucks coming in and out of the country. Meanwhile companies by law have to file declarations which our current system is not designed to cope with. For some suppliers there will be no point in trucks even leaving the depot.

With roads jammed with trucks, supply chains collapsing very rapidly we see rumours of shortages which leads to panic buying. It happens every time we get even a dusting of snow where Tesco runs out of bread and loo roll even if there is no actual shortage.

Those of you old enough to remember the fuel strikes will remember how perilously close the country came to grinding to a complete halt. This would be the same with fuel lorries trapped in traffic. The way the EU legal system works is that if there is no paperwork and there’s no tick in the box then there is no trade.

All the while keep in mind that we will have been ejected from the treaty system governing airways and flight-plans, and without legally valid flight-plans then aircraft are grounded. All rights in the EU airline market are rescinded.

There is nothing in WTO rules that compels the EU to breach its own rules even in an emergency. Driving licences wouldn’t be valid, nor would qualifications so there would be no mutual recognition of conformity assessment. Veterinary inspectors, drivers and pilots would be disqualified.

This is not “remoaner” speculation. Our own findings at The Leave Alliance paint a pretty grim picture of the WTO Option. This is a simple matter of law. If we have no formal relations with the EU then trade simply does not happen.

Longer term, as a third country, the costs of delays, inspections and re-registration make UK business uncompetitive in the EU. Costs go up, contracts are lost, deadlines are missed, tariffs kick in. This is what it means to be outside the European Economic Area.

All of this has been made clear in the EU’s Notices to Stakeholders. These are formal notifications based on the current law. This is no scaremongering or diplomatic threat. This is the business end of the EU.

We don’t know how long it would take to get the trucks rolling again. We’d have to revert to paper declarations because the current IT is not set to cope with the volumes of declarations nor is it mapped to a third country regime.

There are mid-term fixes in the form of bilateral agreements but these would take time and since the UK will have left without paying, the EU would not be in a rush to do us any favours. It will take years to rebuild a functioning customs and regulatory system.

In the meantime businesses cannot afford to wait. Suppliers to EU assembly lines will have no choice but to relocate. Delays will naturally mean production slowdowns and all the secondary suppliers will take the hit.

Trade is more than just movement of goods and there are far bigger worries than tariffs. By leaving without a deal all the otherwise manageable problems of exit happen overnight without the capacity to cope with them. We would be in very serious trouble.

Frictionless trade does not happen by accident. It is the product of thirty years of technical and regulatory collaboration and the result of several strands of agreements on everything from fishing to aviation. Without formal status in the system then UK trade collapses.

Additionally, it’s not just the immediate effects we must consider. It’s the ripple effect that passes through every supply chain, every regulatory system and anything that depends on licencing, certification and approvals. Nearly all of it has an EU dimension.

Without alternative arrangements a lot of our insurances become invalid, contracts voided and work will grind to a halt an major infrastructure programmes. It will simply be illegal to operate without valid insurances.

So deep and comprehensive is EU integration that there is no escaping the regulatory gravity of the EU without serious and lasting harm. It is therefore not remotely realistic to suggest that things can function without a formal framework for trade. Leaving without a deal simply is not an option.

Stagnation

Italy has a new government, but only after a great deal of wrangling. The principal reason for the impasse is that, like the Brexit vote in 2016,  frustration with the European Union was an important motivation for the Italians’ decision to vote in large numbers for two eurosceptic parties.

The situations in the two countries at the moment are nonetheless very different. We are on the way out. True, many Brexit supporters are finding themselves increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress in the Brexit negotiations but there are good grounds for believing that we will leave – eventually., somehow.

Italy, by contrast, is still in the EU and there is no immediate likelihood of “Italexit”. Many inhabitants of this founder member of the European Union are distinctly unenthusiastic at the way EU membership has affected their country, but this doesn’t mean they want to leave altogether..

What both countries have in common is that they have come up against the dead hand of inertia. Essentially, big, bloated states and bureaucracies do not make decisions quickly. Stagnation is the inevitable result. Those of us who can remember the latter years of the Soviet Union will recall that by the time of Mikhail Gorbachev, it had lapsed into stagnation – unable to respond to events. The EU is in a similar position. No senior figure since Jacques Delors seems to have any vision for the EU’s future direction. The enlargement process, after the celebrations of 2004, seems to have ground to a halt.

However, just like the Soviet Union, the EU does not like anyone trying to take it in a direction in which it does not want to go. This piece by Norman Lamont  claims that the EU is very uncomfortable with democracy when it produces a result it doesn’t like. Unfortunately for the Italians, the stagnation into which the EU has descended is going to make it difficult to sort out their country’s moribund economy. A well-informed website claimed that it was actually Berlin which forced the Italian President to reject the nomination of a Eurosceptic finance minister by the putative new government, forcing a climbdown and nearly precipitating new elections, the result of which would most likely have been a parliament containing even more Euro-critical MPs.

For us in the UK, this tendency towards stagnation has made it very hard for us to achieve a successful Brexit.  Last week, Michel Barnier delivered a speech expressing his frustration at the slow progress of Brexit talks. In one sense, he has some justification – our side has been going round in circles ever since Article 50 was invoked. To leave the EU seamlessly requires a lot of research and an appreciation of the nature of the beast. It could be argued that our side has failed almost totally on both counts.

And the struggles the EU is going through, including the Italian crisis, are more than sufficient vindication of our decision.  In a fast-moving world, the EU’s inbuilt bias to inertia makes it ill-equipped to respond to change. We could do much better as a sovereign state – the big problem is making our escape. A rocket needs a huge amount of power to escape the gravitational pull of the Earth and fly off into space. Our negotiators will need to try a lot harder if we are to escape from the gravitational power of the EU.

 

Technical information on NOBO issues

Those who read Nigel Moore’s article on the threats to the NOBO (Notified Bodies) industry may be interested in this further study of NOBO issues by Roger Wright-Morris, the driving force behind the ConcordanceOUT.eu, a useful resource for Brexit issues. It is rather a technical piece, but nonetheless a helpful resource for anyone either involved in NOBOs themselves or who knows someone else who is.

BSI and BSI ACCREDITATION and NOTIFIED BODIES

SOME QUESTIONS HAVE BEEN RAISED BY CONCORDANCEOUT.EU and the answers: How will BSI certification be recognized?  [Either, by EU and/or by non EU?]

We should separate and be very clear on the issues of (i) Standards and Certification and (ii) EU Certification by NOBO’s. Standards, with BSI as the UK’s national standards body, are the businesses that are relevant here. There are other parts of the BSI Group that provide certification services, including those of being a Notified Body*. [NOBO]

This is part comprises an answer on standards, but it will give the reader some very unofficial thoughts on certification/NOBO’s too.

 Standards are good practice set down by experts (industry, consumers, govt, testing people, unions etc etc) through processes run by independent and very often private standards bodies, like BSI, and used voluntarily.

Certification is the process of a third party organization stating that a product, service or process meets a standard.

On Standards, this is the relevant EU Brexit question about continued membership for BSI of CEN and CENELEC , the EU’s standards bodies. It is to be understood that the directors of BSI remain very positive about achieving this, in good time, through a change of the CEN and CENELEC statutes. The BSI is speaking again to the CEN and CENELEC Board meetings in June 2018 (BSI is a member of the Boards of the two organizations).

BSI discussions with UK government have also been positive (helped in terms of the education mission to government that the BSI has been undertaking by the secondments made). UK government understands the issues about standards and does not want to stand in the way of a BSI-designed solution, unless there is a significant political reason for so doing. It is to be hoped that there will be more, and specific, policy statements in the forthcoming UK government white paper.

On Certification generally and very unofficially, ConcordnaceOUT.eu understands that this is a voluntary activity performed by BSI when businesses so request it.

BSI Assurance* certifies to a huge range of standards, as do other certifiers in this commercial market. These certifiers will most commonly be accredited to perform their certification function, through UKAS, the United Kingdom Accreditation Service**.

BSI Assurance also has accreditation through other accreditation bodies around the world, reflecting the global nature of BSI Assurance’s work. One example of this certification is the BSI Kitemark, which is well known.

POST-BREXIT BSI CERTIFICATION

Certification work by BSI Assurance can continue post-Brexit: these are business services used when businesses need them, not EU regulatory requirements. BSI’s certificates for whatever products or services will continue to be recognized post-Brexit as that accreditation will still be valid.

This BSI Assurance work is significantly different from NOBOs as Nigel Moore has mentioned, except as referred to below.***.

NOBOs undertake EU Regulatory Certification for EU conformity assessment

 When a product is to be placed on the EU market, it has to meet certain regulatory laws (especially relating to safety), and if those laws are met, the product has free circulation in the EU and EEA market. To meet the EU law, the manufacturer has to go through a process of conformity assessment, to prove that the product will comply with relevant EU legislation. This may involve an element of mandatory testing by a third party organization, a Notified Body.

Notified Bodies are certification (and similar) bodies designated by Member States for this purpose. There are some 200 UK NOBOs, and BSI Assurance*** for example is a NOBO for some 15 EU directives/regulations. Remember that only an EU Member States that can designate NOBOs.                                                                 Accordingly lease note carefully that: –

FROM day 1 post-Brexit all UK NOBOs will no longer be legitimate and official NOBOs; there will be – or could be challenges  – to the validity of their certificates. [Accordingly, UK goods and planes so certified will not pass EU borders or fly!]

Walking out of the EU and relying on “WTO Rules” would not therefore be a solution to the government’s current BREXIT chaos. The route can only be through the EEA and EFTA. There may be a stopgap – and less satisfactory solution – in the arrangements for the proposed transition period but we do not have any details. Furthermore, what happens in December 2020 when the transitional arrangements come ot an end?

Some countries have MRAs [Memoranda of Agreements] permitting them to have legitimate NOBOs, including in the EEA and also agreements with Canada, US and possibly Japan. This is something that UK could/should/must push for. The continued role of UK NOBOs is certainly a vital issue for the BREXIT negotiations.

**It is worth noting that UKAS has its own statute issue with its European body, EA

Brexit – the current state of play

Edward Spalton gave this review of the Brexit situation at CIB’s annual rally on 14th April 2018. In view of the need for a simple summary of the progress (or lack of it) regarding Brexit, it is may be of benefit for readers to study his assessment of the present state of play.

2017 was an intensely frustrating year for independence campaigners. Looking back at my last annual report, it is remarkable how little has really progressed. Yet we are now less than a year away from Brexit on 29th March 2019 when, as it says in Article 50, clause 3, of the Lisbon Treaty, “The treaties shall cease to apply…unless the European Council in agreement with the member state concerned unanimously decides to extend this period”.

This is one part of the “cliff edge” to which Mrs. May occasionally refers. Much of the law on which we rely for our protection now comes from our 46 year sojourn in the EU. We would be in a legal vacuum at home, if the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill were not enacted by Brexit day to repatriate EU law to the British statute book. For instance, there would be no laws at all protecting food safety.

It is nauseous hypocrisy that Europhiles in Parliament, who never raised the least objection to the outsourcing of huge swathes of our law to the foreign power in Brussels, have tried to hinder the Bill’s passage. They suddenly discovered a devotion to the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty. The Bill, they claim, gives too much power to the government – “Henry VIII powers”- they say. Yet Parliament can sack the government, something it could never do with the European Commission – or with Henry VIII for that matter!

One other great aspect of the “cliff edge” is the interface between ourselves and the EU countries with which we have very close relations on which many people’s livelihoods depend. Mrs. May gave notice that the UK would become an independent country outside the EU and European Economic Area. So all sorts of things just cease to exist, if there is no new agreement with the EU in place by Brexit day. For instance, your driving licence will no longer be valid for EU countries. Neither, of course, will EU driving licenses be valid here – unless it has been specifically agreed, along with thousands of other matters great and small – and there is less than a year to do all this.

After Mrs. May made this intention known in her Lancaster House speech in January 2017, the EU pointed out that all its regulations for dealing with imports from foreign countries outside the EU would apply to British goods after Brexit, if no other agreement was in place. The British government knows exactly what these regulations are because Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs plus the Port Health Officers and Local Authorities apply these same rules already to goods arriving here from countries outside the EU. The port of Southampton deals with 1,300,000 containers per year. So the government has full information about all the procedures.

There is no excuse for delay in informing export businesses of the rules which they will face – particularly the need for firms to appoint an EU-based representative to take responsibility to the authorities for the compliance of goods with EU health and technical standards, a far more onerous business than an easily computed tariff.

The EU itself has been issuing “Notices to Stakeholders”, setting out the requirements sector by sector . But from Her Majesty’s Government to British exporters, there has been no advice at all.

It seems that the government has been deliberately avoiding consultations with business. Theresa May set up a business advisory council which, at the time of writing, has not met since October 2017. Chris Brannigan, the key Downing Street official responsible for communicating government policy to business, left in June after the general election and has not been replaced. It seems that nobody wants the job. (Edward Malnick, Whitehall Editor, Sunday Telegraph 4 March). In spite of the need to have a confident and well-informed business community, there is a black hole at the centre of government communication. It is as if they are frightened to tell business the likely outcomes of their policy – insofar as any coherent policy yet actually exists. It ought to be known in considerable detail 21 months after the referendum.

Last year I wrote “If we leave the EU without an agreement, British goods will be treated as “third country” origin, That is, from a country outside the EU which is what we want to be! The EU will not be “punishing” us by treating us as an independent country”. The EU has been very clear all along that it would maintain the integrity of its common external border, one of its main institutions. Even countries with “deep and special” free trade agreements, like South Korea and Canada, accept that. There are ways of making compliance less onerous and more “frictionless”, such as electronic pre-declarations for customs and “trusted trader” schemes. The government has conspicuously failed to come up with specific, detailed workable suggestions and has so far neither recruited staff for training nor placed orders for necessary infrastructure. So the EU has developed its own policies which are very unpalatable and in parts completely unacceptable, especially with regard to the Irish border and the so-called “implementation” period after March 29th 2019.

Unfortunately British ministers spent most of 2017 deluding themselves, their more credulous colleagues, supporters and eurosceptic media that we could “have our cake and eat it”. That is, “Britannia would waive the rules” – we could leave the EU, make our own and expect the EU to treat our products as if we were still EU members – a piece of monumental ignorance and arrogance., slightly modified in tone by Mrs May in her speech from Florence in the Autumn and by her more recent Mansion House speech which has not really clarified very much else at all.

In researching these matters, I hunt for various sources of information to get as good an all-round picture as possible. The following short article from Private Eye summarised things so well that I am grateful to the editor for permission to publish it. Whilst it is not comforting reading, it is necessary information for mature campaigners to know.

DExEU DESPATCHES.

The Department for Exiting the EU, aka DExEU, has never been a happy place. David Davis’s fiefdom took several months to find a formal home in Whitehall. It was able to attract hundreds of bright young things, keen to serve their country in its hour of need in negotiating Brexit. But the sheen soon wore off. Officials privately concede that their ministers are being comprehensively outgunned by Michel Barnier’s European Commission team.

The place also “leaks like a sieve from top to bottom” says one former official.

“Olly Robbins (Theresa May’s Brexit adviser) is basically being left in a room to negotiate without a mandate” says another.

Eighteen months after its creation, 3 per cent of officials are leaving DExEU each month and 44 per cent are likely to leave in the next year, says the Institute for Government.

Even though several thousand officials have been reshuffled across Whitehall to support the creation of DExEU and Liam Fox’s Department for International Trade, the 600 strong DExEU still has 143 vacancies 18 months after it opened its doors. Many of its staff are on short term contracts, either loaned from other departments or from outside the civil service.

If many DExEU staff are on the Whitehall equivalent of “zero hours” contracts, Davis’s team has at least been flashing the cash at management consultants. Deloitte helped set up DExEU in Summer 2016 and others who have benefited from its largesse include Boston Consulting Group, Accenture, KPMG and McKinsey.

McKinsey was paid £1.5 million last September to lead DExEU’s “Brexit Planning”, a move that achieved little other than see McKinsey’s executives pocket inflated salaries while rubbing shoulders with lowly civil servants, safe in the knowledge that they will return to the private sector when all the Article 50 unpleasantness is over.

Needless to say that had nothing to do with Tom Shinner, the department’s director of policy and delivery coordination whose job is to lead “DEXEU’s work to coordinate the domestic policy implications of Brexit across government departments, to seize the opportunities and ensure the smooth process of exit……….”

So it is not very surprising that the EU is able to outrun them by just standing still.

Having failed (if it was ever intended) to have a workable Brexit up and running by March 2019, it is not surprising that Mrs. May is a desperate supplicant to the EU for extra time to get her house in order after all the wasted opportunities of the previous year – not least two months taking her eye off the ball to fight an unnecessary election after Article 50 notice had already been served and the clock was ticking remorselessly down to Brexit day.

Naturally the EU is demanding very severe terms which will place the UK in the position of a vassal state with no rights and Parliament not actually recognised as a real Parliament in the eyes of the EU. Every EU law will apply, including any new ones they choose to spring during this period of “implementation”. Ominously our own government has asked to be able to extend it beyond the originally intended 21 months.

Looking back on our labours since our last AGM, I cannot report much significant progress on three of the key issues which we identified then. Although the EU itself may unwittingly have come to our aid on one of them!

A Truly Independent British Fisheries Policy.

Edward Heath’s surrender of our fisheries to EU plunder as a “common resource” may well be continued. Our territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone could easily be used as a bargaining counter. Our friends in Fishing for Leave point out that the proposed “implementation” period would imply the continuance of EU fishing rights and of the iniquitous quota system. Ominously in her Mansion House speech,

Mrs May referred to “shared stocks” of fish – in our own waters! That is rather like catching the burglar red-handed with the family silver and conceding he has a right to share it! The EU has since indicated that it intends to do a little “cherry picking” of its own, demanding the continuance of rights for EU vessels equivalent to the Common Fisheries Policy as part of its price for a free trade deal.

The European Arrest Warrant, Europol and the European Gendarmerie

On the presently suggested terms, these institutions will remain in existence with full powers throughout the “implementation” period. Prominent members of the government are known to favour these arrangements. One Conservative minister was on record as welcoming the possibility of deploying these foreign men at arms on our streets. So far, we have not heard that he has changed his mind! However, the EU has indicated that, as a non member, we may not be allowed to take part in these institutions . So the EU rules may actually protect us from Mrs. May’s fondness for subjection to them, developed during her time as Home Secretary.

The European Defence Agency and European Defence Integration

Following the referendum, the government signed up to a whole swathe of EU initiatives, bringing defence forces closer together. Parliament was not awake to the danger. The government did not sign up to the permanent structure (PESCO) but has gone along with a great deal which has the potential to tie our hands in the procurement of armaments for our own forces.

We continue to campaign on these issues and have prepared an informative booklet for MPs and others. This includes detailed information and suggestions for avoiding the trap of the vassal status of the presently proposed vassal status of the implementation period.

It will be available on the website as a PDF.* A number of copies will be available for sale to members .

Edward Spalton – Chairman

* Brexit Reset In pamphlets section of publications.

 31st May 2018 – Supplementary Note.

I can well understand the exasperation felt concerning the lack of progress. Some have suggested that “No deal is better than a bad deal”. If that turns out to be the case on 29 March next year, then the government has followed Mr. Cameron’s precedent of “no Plan B” and Britain and British business are totally unprepared. The Dutch appear to be further forward than us, having begun the training of extra customs staff and allocation of space for new port facilities. Trading with post Brexit Britain, they say, will be procedurally the same as trading with Morocco.

Some companies are already making their own precautionary arrangements. Rolls Royce, for instance, is preparing to move its regulatory compliance operation to mainland EU. EasyJet has moved its headquarters to mainland EU and has plans to change its Articles of Association so that a majority of its shareholders must be EU nationals. This will enable it to keep flying in the “No Deal” situation.

If there is no agreement, Rolls Royce aero engines would have no valid safety certification and cease to be saleable. By leaving the EU and EEA, the government also leaves the European aviation safety agency EASA which produces the safety certification. There is no present provision for non EU countries to belong to EASA. The British Civil Aviation Authority has said that it would take some five to ten years to build its operation up to the required global scale and standard to replace it. There are other similar EU bodies for different industries where the government is trying to get back in on some sort of associate status. Whilst Britain negotiated opt-outs whilst an EU member, it is now trying to negotiate various opt-ins as an independent country. That is somewhat ironic!

When Britain joined the EEC in 1973, our family firm had already received over a year of thorough briefing from the government and so were prepared. We had some problems but could nonetheless get on with making our living from day one. Businesses have to pay their bills and wages every week so a smooth transition is essential. Once businesses close they very rarely reopen. I describe the experience of joining the EEC in the series “The Miller’s Tale” at the end of Episode 2 and all of Episode 3. To give the sort of guidance we then received, the government had to know exactly what it was doing. That does not appear to be the case today.

Floundering – and not just over fishing!

Slowly but surely, the degree to which the Government and the Department for Exiting the European Union are floundering in their Brexit plans is becoming more apparent.

A week ago, Alistair Carmichael, the MP for Orkney and Shetland, finally received an answer to a written question about fishing. Here is the question and the answer:-

Question:
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what legal identity is planned to be in place to prevent EU vessels operating inside the Orkney and Shetland 12 nautical mile zone during the proposed 21-month implementation period after EU treaties and the derogation for exclusive use of the Orkney and Shetland 12 nautical mile zone cease to apply to the UK. (140647)

Tabled on: 02 May 2018

Answer: (George Eustice🙂

The implementation period agreed between the UK and EU was endorsed by the European Council on 22nd March.

Under the agreement, current fisheries rules and enforcement arrangements will continue to apply. This includes provisions relating to access to waters within the UK’s 6-12 nautical mile zone.

Access to fish in UK waters after the implementation period will be a matter for negotiation. Access will be on our terms, under our control and for the benefit of UK fishermen.

You will notice that the answer completely fails to address the question. It says that current conditions will apply, but does not mention the legal basis. There is a good reason for this – there isn’t one!

It’s not just fisheries issues which are exposing the hole which DExEU and the Government are digging. On 23rd May, Robin Walker and Suella Braverman appeared before the Commons select Committee. You can watch the full session on Parliamentary TV. Some particular highlights   include Mr Walker’s awkwardness when questioned on customs arrangement. More importantly, there was much flannelling around the subject of the legal basis of any future treaty. Pat McFadden MP asked four times about whether Parliament will be expected to vote on the financial arrangements before a legally-binding treaty is finalised – in other words, that MPs were being expected to vote for the package “in good faith”.

The scale of the mess surrounding the negotiations is being exposed more and more by the day. A report in The Times suggests that Mrs May is seeking an extension of the transitional period until 2023. This comes a day after EU sources dismissed the government’s “backstop” plans for the Irish Border. Mrs May insisted that the proposal would be time-limited, but one Brussels source said: “It will apply for as long as there is no credible alternative. It can’t be time limited or it’s not a backstop.”

The government is going round in circles. The totally disastrous position facing our fishing industry if Mrs May persists with her current plans were laid bare over a month ago.  We remain hopeful that this will not happen because these plans are being proved more untenable by the day. It may take a crisis to bring about a change of direction, but so flawed are the current plans that the crisis may not be long in coming.

Brexit’s ‘Operation Dynamo’ via the EFTA/EEA Escape Route

Fast action is urgently needed to save Brexit

An improvised emergency operation is needed to extract our country from the European Union (EU) just as in the early summer of 1940 the original Operation Dynamo was required to rescue the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) from occupied Europe.  And, as with the original, it will include a motley collection of ordinary people helping out under professional direction, since Mrs May’s government cannot do it alone.  As the days pass, the urgency becomes greater and our plight more desperate. There is no tangible Brexit progress under Mrs May’s leadership and with the rule-bound control-freak EU, ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’. The two options seem to be to accept the EU’s terms or let highly integrated trade with the Single Market (and wider European Economic Area, EEA) face huge disruption after we leave.

Mrs May has boxed us into an ever smaller dead end

Mrs May has seemingly left herself with no options apart from accepting the EU’s increasingly demanding terms in order to deliver frictionless trade with the Single Market and wider EEA, along with a soft border in Ireland. All imaginary technical solutions and customs partnerships or unions have already been rejected by the EU. In any case the government doesn’t have a stellar record of delivering complex IT projects to specification, on time and within budget. Further, it is membership of the Single Market (or EEA) that delivers near frictionless trade, between members not participation in a customs union.

Brexit in Name Only is coming

Brexit in name only with the UK firstly a temporary and then a permanent EU vassal state can be the only outcome unless Mrs May changes direction. This is the case whether or not she caves in to the EU’s demands. Even if she got her flimsy free trade agreement (FTA) and whimsical mutual recognition of standards, the concessions required from her by Brussels would still mean that we are a vassal state in everything but name, with the EU able to ‘turn the screws’ at any time. And frictionless trade with an FTA is a fantasy.

The EFTA/EEA Escape Route from EU Occupied Europe

Rather than being trapped under EU hegemony, which is what Mrs May is leading us towards, we could remain in the Single Market under different, much more flexible conditions by re-joining the free nations of Europe in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).  The EFTA/EEA route is a far better way of enabling us on 29th March 2019 to leave the political EU and its alien, autocratic straightjacket whilst still trading, as now, with the Single Market. As a temporary measure. it could buy time for FTA negotiations. (see also here, Brexit Reset, Eureferendum.com)

The EEA Agreement is the key to EFTA/EEA participation

The EEA Agreement, with its Annexes and Protocols, determines how the EFTA countries participate in the EEA. This agreement is regularly amended to suit the interests of the participating EFTA countries – each country has its own variation.  Hence by taking the existing off-the-shelf versions we could adapt them to produce our own bespoke version to suit our needs and then at a later date, revise it as many times as we so desire to correct errors and customise it further to suit our needs and as conditions change.

The Free Nations of EFTA are Our Brexit Rescue Partners

Any EFTA/EEA negotiation, unlike the EU Article 50 negotiations, would be a collaboration not an adversarial confrontation, and would be conducted within a different environment.  Such a negotiation  would involve amending the EEA Agreement to improve it, in both our and our EFTA partners’ interests.  And their expertise built up over many years would be invaluable.  This would also go some way to making amends for Mrs May’s betrayal of EFTA by deciding to leave the Single Market (and wider EEA), and leaving them out of any negotiations.

Key Items for the UK EFTA/EEA Agreement

We need our version of the EEA Agreement positively to address our major national interests, in particular, near frictionless trade and control of immigration. Frictionless trade is mainly about dealing with technical issues so that existing arrangements can be retained without introducing new barriers.  Control of immigration concerns strengthening existing arrangements in the EEA Agreement (Article 112, the Safeguard Measures). These would already allow us unilaterally to manage immigration.  However, in the UK there are permanent economic, infrastructural and societal factors which would justify introducing specific clauses to strengthen the right to retain permanent control of migration.

Stakeholder Working Groups for frictionless Trade

Delivering near frictionless trade is where the bulk of the work in amending the EEA Agreement would be needed, as it must cover a wide range of economic activities from aeronautics to zoology.  This is obviously beyond the competence of Mrs May, Mr Davis or the Department for (not) Exiting the European Union. Yet untapped real expertise exists amongst the various (industry) stakeholders who are already familiar with relevant EU/EEA legislation and working practices.  These people would be highly motivated to solve any issues, once they recognise the government’s limitations, since their livelihoods often, in part at least, depend on frictionless trade.  Multiple working groups from industry can function concurrently, whilst learning from each other and ‘comparing notes’ to speed up their ‘learning curves’.  The inclusion of public consultations and publication of drafts could add considerable transparency to their activities, whilst moving the process away from destructive political in-fighting.

Preventing Abuse of the EEA Agreement

The EU doesn’t want us back as a troublesome full member state. As an EU vassal state, they can get everything they want from us.  However, it would be prudent to send a strong message to EU ‘fifth columnists’ that the EFTA/EEA agreement cannot be subverted – that it must always be used for its original purpose to provide access to the Single Market for free European nations (i.e., those outside the EU).

Brexit’s Operation Dynamo can be made to work

It is all straightforward project management, not rocket science, and much less risky than Mrs May’s fraught and furtive Article 50 negotiations. For starters, it need to:  address resourcing requirements; build competences; set objectives, priorities and timetables; manage risks and co-ordinate efforts. This is merely following a systematic document preparation process, which can be adapted to build in various procedures, checks, controls and risk mitigation measures. Many industry specialists do this sort of thing all the time, for example, under the aegis of the British Standards Institution. There may also need to be continuity planning to keep trade moving under existing arrangements until the EFTA/EEA bespoke UK EEA Agreement can be fully adopted. This would not be difficult since we would be staying in the EEA anyway.  Work carried out now and resources developed could also be useful in the years to come in developing international trade and reforming the Single Market.

Other Lessons from the Original Operation Dynamo

The original Operation Dynamo was a collective effort of improvisation in a short time – it worked better than expected in a national crisis. It provided a hard lesson about the pitfalls of insular complacency and laid foundations for a future national cooperative effort.  A new crisis is coming as a consequence of Mrs May’s shambolic negotiations and recklessness in deciding to leave the Single Market without a plan for frictionless trade.  Just as in 1940, we need a committed, courageous and practical prime minister. Is Mrs May the person? I’ll let you decide!