Some Restriction on free movement of people is possible within the EEA agreement

Remaining in the single market as an interim option after leaving the EU does allow a country to place restrictions on immigration. The so-called “Norway Option” is being widely debated at the moment, but it has received a good deal of criticism from those whose prime reason for supporting withdrawal from the EU is their desire to see immigration reduced. Nevertheless, although this arrangement may not satisfy everyone seeking an “out” vote, not only it is the best way of ensuring we win a sufficient number of votes to leave the EU, but it does at least allow some restrictions on immigration, as Robert Oulds from the Bruges Group explains:-

It is possible to impose restrictions on immigration whilst remaining in the European Economic Area. Liechtenstein, an EEA member with less potential influence than Britain, continues to use clauses in the EEA agreement to restrict the movement of persons. Article 112(1) of the EEA Agreement reads: ‘If serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties of a sectorial or regional nature liable to persist are arising, a Contracting Party may unilaterally take appropriate measures under the conditions and procedures laid down in Article 113.’ The restrictions used by Liechtenstein are further reinforced by Protocol 15 (Article 5 – 7) of the EEA agreement. This allows Liechtenstein to keep specific restrictions on the free movement of people. These have been kept in place by what is known as the EEA Council.[1]

There will also be greater latitude to restrict non-British EU citizen’s access to benefits and to deny residency to those who are deemed to not have sufficient resources to support themselves. The current debate in Britain on immigration largely ignores the role of the European Court of Human Rights and the European Convention. Article 3 of the Convention (inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) and Article 8 (private and family life, his home and his correspondence) would also be relevant to the issue of immigration. These two article are often taken together; especially in cases of repatriation.

EEA/EFTA states are outside of Article 6 of the EU’s Treaty on European Union which states; 2. The Union shall accede to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Such accession shall not affect the Union’s competences as defined in the Treaties 3. Fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and as they result from the constitutional traditions common to the Member States, shall constitute general principles of the Union’s law.

 There is already a great deal of flexibility in the EEA agreement. This goes beyond the ability to restrict immigration and opt-out of areas of EEA rules. Iceland even unilaterally imposed capital controls after its financial crash in 2008. This is permitted within the EEA safeguards Article 112.[2] There is also no enforcement mechanism to prevent this from happening even if such flexibility was not contained within the EEA. Whist this paper does not advocate such a policy it shows that radical steps that run contrary, even to the four freedoms of the EEA, can be implemented.

The EEA relevant rule relating to freedom of movement, Directive 2004/38, has qualifications, conditions and limitation. (10) Persons exercising their right of residence should not, however, become an unreasonable burden on the social assistance system of the host Member State during an initial period of residence. Therefore, the right of residence for Union citizens and their family members for periods in excess of three months should be subject to conditions. (12) For periods of residence of longer than three months, Member States should have the possibility to require Union citizens to register with the competent authorities in the place of residence, attested by a registration certificate issued to that effect. (22)

The Treaty allows restrictions to be placed on the right of free movement and residence on grounds of public policy, public security or public health. Article 7, 1 b) (b) have sufficient resources for themselves and their family members not to become a burden on the social assistance system of the host Member State during their period of residence and have comprehensive sickness insurance cover in the host Member State.[3] No right is absolute, and neither is freedom of movement within the EEA. What is more, EEA rules only apply to EFTA nations after they have assessed the relevant legislation and applied it according to their own interpretation of what freedom of movement means.

Footnotes:-
[1] EEA Council Decision No. 1/95, Official Journal of the European Communities, 20th April 1995, pages L 86/58 and 86/80
[2] Official Journal of the European Communities, 3rd January 1994, pages L/28, 176-8 and 562
[3] DIRECTIVE 2004/38/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 29 April 2004

Robert Oulds: Independent from the EU

Last October, Robert Oulds of the Bruges Group delivered a presentation entitled “Independent from the EU and into the wider world” at a CIB-hosted meeting at Chelwood House, Somerset. Robert explained how we could exit seamlessly from the EU by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and negotiating to re-join EFTA. No other exit option is viable for, if we left the European Economic Area (which we would not under this secenario), the barriers to trade with the EU would take years to address, thus putting many UK businesses at risk.

Although much has happened since Robert gave this presentation, the arguments he set out last year still form the basis of the EU exit strategy most likely to command sufficient popular support to secure the all-important “out” vote in the forthcoming referendum and the only one which can answer all the concerns of the business community. The video can be accessed here.

 

What planet is he on?

As Greece prepares for a referendum which could determine whether it leaves the single currency or not, Sir Richard Branson, well known for his enthusiastic support for our membership of the EU, said that he was “not particularly” happy that we were out of the single currency. “I think that if we were part of the euro right now our currency would be a lot cheaper,” he told the Andrew Marr show. “Great Britain would be doing that much better in trading in Europe because the pound is a lot stronger than the euro, it makes it more difficult for us.”

Here, Branson once again proved the point that for business, the only real issue as far as our EU membership is concerned is trade. He also revealed his ignorance of the flawed nature of the single currency project. Had we been part of the single currency, we could not have cut interest rates to rock bottom at the height of the Great Recession allowing our currency to depreciate in value in relation to those of other nations. That is how things work with a “fiat currency” – i.e., where there is no peg to an asset such as gold. Countries in financial difficulty are encouraged to rely on exports (which will become cheaper with a weaker currency) as a way of rebuilding their economy. It is the textbook approach of the International Monetary Fund. Unfortunately, it is not an option available to Greece at the present time because it does not have control of the interest rates set for its currency – the Euro. If we had been part of the single currency, we would not have had that option either during that critical period five years ago.

So while UK goods might indeed be a bit cheaper now if they were denominated in the euro, which has fallen in value against a number of other major currencies recently, they would have been too expensive during the critical period when the recession was at its worst and a boost to our exports was desperately needed. We would have been entirely at the mercy of the European Central Bank. In other words, the exchange rate for the currency we would have been using would have been ultimately determined by decisions made in a foreign country and not therefore seeking the optimal rate for UK business. Perhaps the pound may be overvalued at the present as far as Branson’s business empire is concerned, but this is a price worth paying to preserve the freedom to control interest rates and thus – to a degree, at least – exchange rates. The terrible recession in Greece is an object lesson to the tiny handful of influential people who bemoan our absence from the single currency. Branson, however, is not alone. Martin Sandbu, an economics writer for the Financial Times, maintained that Greece would not have suffered its current crisis had we joined the Eurozone, as we would have ensured that the financial discipline written into the Maastricht treaty and thus prevented earlier Greek governments from over-borrowing when money was cheap. A rebuttal to this rather fanciful idea was provided by Raoul Ruparel of Open Europe. Even this pro-EU think tank has sufficient wisdom to see the lack of substance to Sandbu’s argument. With the UK experiencing economic difficulties some time before the Eurozone, “the UK would have found itself in a similar position to Ireland, with the rest of the eurozone (which had yet to be hit by the sovereign crisis) lecturing it on economic and financial policy”, said Ruparel. “The fallout would probably have been the UK leaving the euro and possibly the EU, precipitating a potentially even deeper crisis for all involved. In the end the fundamental flaws in the Eurozone, clear for all now to see, would probably have been exacerbated by having another large country with different needs inside the single currency.”

Yes, the single currency is a flawed project. Professor Tim Congdon highlighted the vulnerability of European monetary union to depositor runs on the banking system (such as we have seen recently in Greece) over 25 years ago. “When I spoke to them at conferences, dinners and such like, the euro’s architects….. dismissed my concerns as of no importance”, he wrote recently. Branson and his ilk regrettably remain as blind to these flaws as ever. Indeed, his blindness to the nature of the whole European project is quite staggering. During the same interview with the Andrew Marr show, he also said, “If we go back to being Great Britain again we will have our hands tied behind our back and I think Europeans will rightly punish us and we’ll be back to where we were fifty years ago.” Branson clearly has no concept of the EEA/EFTA exit route – the so-called “Norway Option”, which, far from tying our hands behind our backs, would be a benefit to our trade in the longer term. He then repeated a really basic howler in claiming the EU had helped preserve relative peace in Europe. Oh really? What has it done to preserve peace in Ukraine? It has in many ways fermented the conflict. What about Serbia? What did it do to end the conflicts with ETA or the IRA? The credit for over seventy years of peace within Europe belongs to NATO, not the EU.

Branson then claimed it would be “catastrophic” if we left. Nonsense; it would be catastrophic if we didn’t leave. It would be the end of our great country. It would be the final nail in our Common Law legal system and the sovereignty of our Parliament. Deceived by our political leaders, we made a wrong turning over forty years ago and locked ourselves into a project which we have never really supported. The referendum offers us a chance to right a great wrong.

Branson is no politician and should keep his big mouth shut over issues about which he is plainly pig-ignorant. He should instead stick to being an entrepreneur, which he clearly does very well. After all, his Virgin empire even includes a commercial space travel programme, Virgin Galactic. While it appears on the surface to be a long way from offering space travel for tourists, judging by the silly words he spoke to Andrew Marr about the EU, which seem so far removed from reality, one is tempted to wonder whether Branson does already inhabit another planet, if not some parallel universe.

Yes we can – sell your country, know your history!

On Tuesday, I had the privilege of presenting CIB’s latest booklet, Generations Betrayed, to the Better Off Out group – a meeting of MPs, Lords, think tanks and eurosceptic campaign groups. This excellent booklet, written by Chris McGovern, Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, illustrates how history teaching has been dumbed down in British schools, producing a generation who have left school with a severe lack of knowledge about our past. Those who do not know the history of our country with its great distinctives, says Chris, are harder to win round to supporting withdrawal from the EU.

The presentation led to an interesting discussion and some helpful conversations afterwards. One theme to emerge is that we who are campaigning for “Out” must be unashamed to tell our country’s history to those who don’t know it. “In” supporters are belittling the country that has nurtured them. “Poor little England can’t stand up on its own in the 21st Century. We have to be part of the European project.” What nonsense! (I could use a stronger word, but don’t want to offend my readers’ sensibilities!) A nation with such a great past can look forward to what Owen Paterson described as a “spectacular” future outside the EU. It is so unfortunate that, in an age which is seeing a growing national self-awareness among, for example, the Flemings in Belgium or the Catalans in Spain that patriotism in this country is frowned upon and history is taught from a curriculum devised by people consumed with national self-loathing. As I mentioned to the group yesterday, our history does contain a few blemishes, but the balance overall is of a very positive story. We have far, far less of which to be ashamed in our past than not just (obviously) Germany but also France, Spain and Russia, to name a few others.

Much of the debate in recent weeks has revolved around economic issues and CIB fully recognises the need for an exit strategy which is feasible, watertight and at least economically neutral. The “out” campaign must be realistic, rather than aspirational when it comes to the nitty gritty of the withdrawal process. However, this needs to be set to some very optimistic mood music. It is the supporters of “in” who are the Little Englanders – belittling our abilities, decrying our history, undermining our confidence. Barack Obama may now appear a lame duck president, but he won the 2009 US Presidential election by setting a positive note – “Yes we can.” If we can sell an equally positive vision for the UK on independence as well as convincing the electorate that the sky will not fall in economically, it will be greatly to our advantage. This year is particularly rich in anniversaries – Magna Carta 1215, Agincourt 1415, Waterloo 1815. Has there ever been a better opportunity to harness our past successes to the service of selling our future success to a public who must surely be receptive to a positive vision for our great country?

(Copies of Generations Betrayed can be obtained by contacting CIB at the address on the home page of the website or by e-mailing [email protected]. Price is £2 per copy plus postage & packing)

Photo by David Jones

Britain’s global leadership – the positive future for a UK outside the EU

The Bruges Group firmly believes that we need to reframe the debate to focus on the positives that Britain poses, in particular our excellent global links, higher education, to the City of London and technical brilliance in manufacturing. The UK, when freed from the restraints of the EU, has numerous attributes. Quite simply we do not have to be governed by Brussels to secure our prosperity, in fact far from it. This research, by Ewen Stewart, makes the positive case for independence.

• Inside the EU we are punching below our weight and should do better. Self-belief coupled with a hard analysis of the nexus of power and strategic advantage will lead to this being addressed but that can only be so once we are outside of the EU.

• The Eurocentric orientation of the UK is misplaced. Emerging markets, by 2018 are expected to account for 45% of world GDP and the European Union’s share will have declined from 34.1% to 20.2%, with the Eurozone representing an even smaller 14.6%. China’s share is predicted to surpass the entire Eurozone by 2018.

• Nations that can address this extraordinary shift in global growth will capitalise most effectively on these new trade flows. The attractive European trade bloc, of the 1970’s does not look so attractive in this light, given the Eurozone’s inexorable decline of the share of global GDP. The UK is uniquely well placed to exploit these shifting trading patterns given its global links and its service and financial sector bias.

• Britain is uniquely positioned globally in terms of economic, cultural and soft and hard power assets. The UK is home to the world’s global language, the world’s most global city and many of the most notable global universities and research institutes. British legal ideas and the common law approach is admired the world over. It is the basis of our stability. These advantages would continue irrespective of our membership of the EU.

• British manufacturing remains comfortably within the top ten, in terms of output, globally. The UK is now a net exporter of motor cars with four out of every five cars produced in Britain exported. Britain is the world’s second most significant aerospace manufacturer, possesses two out of the top ten global pharmaceutical companies while also having strong positions in marine, defence systems, food, beverage and tobacco manufacture, off-shore engineering and high-end engineering and electronics. British design, be it in fashion or sports cars, continues to be world beating.

• The UK retains a key skills base and has developed a high-end, high-margin capability. Membership of the EU, with its cost pressures has almost certainly done more harm than good to this capability. Industry has little to fear from withdrawal.

• The UK is a world leader in sport, media and culture. Higher education is also a great strength with British universities ranked amongst the best in the world. This coupled with the growing strength of the English language and our traditional excellent global links gives the UK real influence in world affairs. This will not change once we are outside the EU.

• While the US is the pre-eminent power accounting for 39% of all global defence expenditure and an even greater technological lead the UK’s defence expenditure remains in the global top 4. Technologically too Britain’s forces, while numerically modest, are highly advanced. Technology generally trumps numbers. The UK is perhaps one of only 5 or 6 nations that can still project power across the globe.

• As the world’s 5th largest economy Britain will not be isolated by leaving the EU. On the contrary British power would, in some cases, be enhanced. For example we would swap our 12% EU voting weight at the World Trade Organisation for a 100% British vote.

• The UK is currently estimated to be a member of 96 different international governmental organisations so the loss of one such organisation, albeit a very important one, is unlikely to be damaging. To read the paper on-line, click on the link below:-

BritainsGlobalLeadership

Selling the dream – the case for leaving the EU now

We have it in our power to begin the world over again. (Thomas Paine, 1776, Common Sense)

A future outside full membership of the European Union opens up exciting possibilities unlike the existing increasingly sclerotic situation as the EU expands its role and territory. Ahead could be a new beginning that builds on the best of who and what we (the People) are, to build freedom, democracy, justice, prosperity and a peaceful country in an increasing competitive and dangerous world.

The positive case for leaving the EU could be made by focusing on Unique Selling Propositions (USPs), the major advantages not otherwise available. These USPs really stand out, are instantly memorable and, preferably are scalable in application with little or no change in terminology from personal circumstances, to the local community, and then to our country; as Tip O’Neill said ‘All politics is local’. USPs could come from identifying ‘Great Themes’, that are largely self-evident (or at least everyone can have a coherent view on) and can be expanded in detail as needed. These exist in perpetuity and take cognisance of our ‘bigger picture’ of wishes, needs, fears and circumstances in the light of current knowledge and invention. They are often mutually supportive and sometimes overlap each other. The following are some Great Themes with their associated USPs arising from leaving the EU.

Win-Win Relationship with EU – Ability to work with the EU on terms that give us advantages (for example, of free trade with the EU and other countries) without the downside from ever closer political union; the EU can move ahead with fuller integration into a monolithic superstate without our truculent, unstable membership; less effects on us from any future EU meltdown, (economic or political instability), and the EU can ‘fix’ such problems unencumbered by us;

Freedom – Freedom to be ourselves, to live our lives as we choose and to decide what is best for us (put our interests first); Freedom to tackle major problems in our own ways and build better lives and a better country for everyone; Freedom from the EU’s abuses of power and exploitation, mistakes and excesses including waste, corruption, corporatism (government for the favoured few and Big Business), taxes, injustices, ‘one size fits all’ over-regulation, bureaucratic absolutism, and misconceived (madcap) ideologies and economics; Freedom to choose how we protect and defend ourselves, our country, way of life and heritage; Freedom to co-operate with others without EU interference; Freedom to set and enforce our own ethical standards of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ behaviour;

Democracy – Building government of the people, by the people, for the people at all levels of administration with a focus on bottom up local de-centralisation, rather than remote top down centralisation; building greater participation, democratic accountability and transparency; building a new dispensation, partnership or relationship between a more in-touch and accessible government and governed based on mutual respect, honesty and participation for the benefit of all;

Justice – The rule of our (national) laws based on our standards, heritage and judiciary; protection of our existing freedoms, for example, of speech, of conscience, of the Press, from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, from fear; protection of our property and wealth from arbitrary, unaccountable confiscation; the advancement of social justice in ways acceptable to the People;

Prosperity – For all from free enterprise, better competitiveness, lower taxes and honest, prudent government; trade, co-operate and work with whoever we choose on mutually agreed terms; safeguard and develop our assets, resources, and enterprises free from the EU’s excesses; support science, innovative and small businesses and start-ups where the EU currently fails; improve public sector procurement practices to facilitate local enterprise;

Futureproofing – Ability to move quickly and appropriately, including allocation of resources; flexibility to develop and implement our own leading best practice; ability to adopt, adapt to our needs and improve best practice from wherever it is available (including on occasion from the EU when it suits us – anything good the EU does, we can do better);

Opportunity and momentum – Lifting the EU’s dead hand holding us back, creates momentum for change, to question how things are done and create opportunities; progress can now happen which before was inconceivable through individual contribution rather than via top-down diktat; the existing management of national decline by the government and EU bureaucrats can be reversed; birth of greater confidence and self-reliance leading to more achievements from individual, community, organisation and national levels (the ‘can do’ or ‘get up and go’ spirit reborn);

Ethical Standards – Remove the corrosive influence on our society of the EU’s poorer standards especially relating to freedom and individuality, democracy, corruption and honesty, waste, taxation, bureaucracy, compassion, property rights and rule of just law;

Inspire The World – As a sovereign nation and free people with our own identity we can be more visible than as a region of an homogenised superstate; our ways of doing things from freedom, through law, culture, heritage, humanity, research, to enterprise etc. can bring a beacon of hope to many;
Why do we need to accept second best or worse, when we can do much better ourselves to realise our dreams or ambitions at individual, community and national levels? Leaving behind a moribund EU is about a future of hope; about releasing the potential that is being repressed; about building on our best; about independence and placing our lives, our country and our future in our hands:

The coming hope, the future day,
When wrong to right shall bow,
And but a little courage, patriots!
To make that future—NOW!
(adapted from The Song of the Future, Ernest Jones, Chartist and poet)

Photo by Hernan Piñera