The referendum on EU membership is planned as an In/Out referendum. Is this winnable? Is it the easiest way of gaining self-government? I don’t believe so. A Survation EU poll showed 47% want ‘Out’ of the EU, 31% wish to remain ‘In’ and 20% ‘Don’t Know’. However, with concessions, 41% would stay in the EU and 37% would leave, with 23% undecided. With polls over the years showing 30% want ‘In’ the EU, 40% something looser and 30% ‘Out’ the EU, are there other options?
Let’s look at the In/Out EU referendum approach. Firstly why do people in favour of EU membership prefer this referendum question, rather than a middle option EFTA/EEA/Single Market? Is it because they feel they could more likely win this referendum? I believe so. Why choose the second part of 2017 for this referendum? Well, the EU has something called a 6 month rotating Presidency, and Britain’s turn is in…the second half of 2017! This would give the pro-EU campaign an advantage.
What happened in the Scottish independence referendum? Firstly, the pro-independence campaign took a step-by-step approach. Their first referendum was for a Scottish Parliament and additional powers. Then they had an In/Out referendum – which they lost. And why did they lose – whether you are pro or anti Scottish independence? They didn’t go for a devo-max option, which would have given them full tax and spending powers. In addition, nearly all national politicians were for the union, so were big media, big banks and big business, and they also used scare tactics and some last minute concessions. In addition, the ‘don’t knows’ tend to vote for the status quo, i.e. remain in the union. Who knows how much phone and email hacking was going on by various agencies?
All of the above could be used in an In/Out EU referendum, and we could lose.
So what could be a step-by-step approach that achieves what we want – self-government – even faster. I suggest an EFTA/EEA referendum question:
‘Do you think Britain should be a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Agreement (EEA)?’
The EEA is the Single Market, allowing free movement of: goods, services, people and capital. Britain is currently a member of the EU (political)/EEA (economic). Switching to EFTA/EEA is easy. This would allow Britain to restore control of:
- Home Affairs
- 60% fewer regulations
- Reduce EU net contributions from £6 billion a year to £3 billion a year.
- Use article 112 of the EEA agreement to only allow new Eastern Europeans to have a 1 year work permit, after which they return to their country.
- Be able to negotiate Free Trade Agreements independent of the EU
- Be able to veto EEA regulations
Opinion polls have shown:
- 53% – EFTA/EEA
- 22% – EU/EEA
- 23% – Don’t Know
Or taking out the ‘Don’t Knows’, EFTA 71% and EU 29% – a larger margin than In/Out opinion polls show: http://survation.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Bruges-Group-Report.pdf
So, even though most people have never heard of EFTA – which includes Norway and Switzerland, with 3.5 % unemployment, and wealthy countries – they like what it has to offer. It is an off-the-shelf alternative.
EFTA has a website, www.efta.int, and people can also search the internet with ‘efta seminars’ to look at public seminars with powerpoint presentations of the EFTA/EEA and acquire a greater understanding of this EU alternative.
Since Britain has been a part of the EU it has had:
- Cumulative trade deficit of over £400 billion with EU countries
- Net contributions over £130 billion to the EU
Not a win-win agreement at all. The trade deficit leads to a loss of jobs, and also less company sales. This has a massive economic cost – less income tax, less council tax, less VAT, less fuel duty, less corporation tax, billions a year – i.e. other countries get this benefit. This affects NHS, defence, education spending and the deficit.
What else does the opinion poll show for EFTA/EEA support in detail? Survation poll shows 51% of women are in favour of EFTA/EEA, 19% for EU/EEA, and 30% ‘Don’t Know’, and also 43% of Labour voters for EFTA, with only 37% for the EU. There is also useful information here: http://www.brugesgroup.com/ (click on right ‘Alternatives to EU’).
EFTA has other benefits:
- Likely get more votes
- More winnable
- Easier to implement
- Faster to implement and get economic benefits
- More likely to get lots of business support
- An easier referendum option for other EU countries to win, and join EFTA, e.g. Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Austria, maybe also Ireland.
There is a new Facebook page supporting UK membership of EFTA:
EFTA is a positive off-the-shelf alternative with support across the public, business and political spectrum, with ease of implementation to help Britain create more numerous and better paid jobs and improve public finances. The EFTA/EEA option is a huge improvement on the current EU/EEA treaty and would help realise many of the aspirations of the anti-EU groups and all their work over the years, with the option of more referendums in the future and treaty changes, as has been the norm in Europe.
(This article first appeared on the UCL Conservative Society website and is used with the author’s permission.)