The EU referendum is winnable for the pro-democracy campaign if we engage the ‘undecideds’ with an option they feel comfortable voting for. The two campaign teams will likely be aiming to influence this group of voters.
People vote for all kinds of reasons, so we need to choose an option they could find it easy to understand and vote for. In addition, winning by 51%, I feel, is not enough. We would be better by winning with 60% or more. Why? Since there are 650 MPs in Parliament, they could benefit from having an incentive to expedite the upgrade to democracy, since they would like to be re-elected, and to delay implementation could harm their re-election prospects. This would avoid the possibility of taking up to 10 years, like the Swiss, to implement a bi-lateral agreement. Also Britain’s traditional role in Europe has been helping the restoration of self-government, so choosing an option other similar counties could win is useful.
What option could win over 60%? There is only one so far, and that is the EFTA/EEA option (European Free Trade Association www.efta.int and European Economic Area) where a Survation poll showed that 71% preferred it to EU/EEA with 29%.
EFTA countries include: Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. The EEA (Single Market) allows for free movement of goods, service, people and capital, with opt out and special provisions for some countries, e.g. Denmark has an opt out on Justice, Home affairs and buying of property, and Liechtenstein has special provisions on immigration control. See Page 36 of the attached document.
An upgrade to a win-win option is possible and winnable.
What would be the benefits of switching to EFTA/EEA + Opt Outs?
Firstly, what are some of the current disadvantages of EU membership?
- A cumulative net financial contribution, since joining of £130bn, for what people were told was a free trade deal, with no tariffs
- A cumulative trade deficit of over £400bn, resulting in exporting jobs, so leading to less jobs, less company sales, so also less tax revenues in the areas of income tax, corporation tax, VAT, council taxes and more, so needing higher taxes and borrowing to pay for services and cuts in services.
- Higher EU regulatory burden on the whole economy, when only 9% of GDP trades with the EU, with some estimates putting the cost at 10% of GDP
- Experiments with white elephants, wasting taxpayers money, for example HS2, large computer projects
- Poor role model, especially for public sectors, demoralising staff with, top down decision making, little frontline ideas implemented, ineffective meetings, bureaucratic, promotion based on political reasons, longer decision making time, poor communication
- Financial accounts not signed off for over 15 years, by auditors
- Free movement has a major flaw, as there are few consequences for people voting for corrupt and incompetent politicians as they can wander into another country and get a job and/or claim benefits
- Uncontrolled immigration leading to a drop in wages and rise in rents/house prices, so lowering living standards to what could be achieved
- Taking skilled educated people from mainly Eastern Europe and asset stripping their skills and reducing their tax base, with a lower population
- Distorting elections in EU countries that receive funds, since money spent makes the existing government look good
- Large businesses and cartels can more easily lobby the EU to get unnecessary regulations passed that raise the barriers to entry for new businesses, so leading to higher prices for the public.
- As power is centralised with fewer people so is wealth
The benefits of EFTA/EEA + Opt Outs are many:
- Saving around £5bn a year in direct net contributions
- Using a similar provision as Liechtenstein, the control of immigration could be implemented
- New eastern Europeans can only get 1 year working visas, with no children, and a points system for skills based for longer time
- Other EEA countries new immigrants can have free movement as long as their unemployment is below 7%, otherwise only a 1 year working visa, points system for longer
- If UK unemployment is over 7%, then all new EEA countries immigrants can only have 1 year working visa, points system for longer
- New people from outside the EEA who acquire EEA passports e.g. a Russian getting a Malta could have a 1 year working visas, with point system for staying longer
- The first year of being in the UK, new immigrants could not claim any benefits, then for next 2 years, they can claim benefits, comparing the UK and the country of origin benefits, and receiving whichever is the lowest
- EEA people with previous serious criminal offences – i.e. not parking or speeding fines – are barred from entering the UK
- Anyone wishing to buy a new residential property, EEA or from around the world, would need to live in the UK for at least 5 years continuously, for at least 7 months of the year
- The above would be reciprocal with other EU countries
- Reduction in regulations applying, with only the 4,700 EEA regulations applying and the 15,000 EU regulations open to amending or repealing.
- Control of Home Affairs, i.e. no EAW, European Arrest Warrant, no EU asylum policy
- Control of Justice, no ECJ, European Court of Justice
- Control of Fisheries and Agriculture
- Veto option of any new EEA regulations
- An EFTA office in Brussels, with website with links to EFTA/EEA powerpoint presentations http://www.efta.int/eea/seminars
- A UK seat on world bodies which make regulations which are passed to the EU, which the UK could regain a vote and voice.
- EFTA accounts signed off every year by auditors
- Other Northern European countries could win EFTA/EEA + Opt Out referendums, e.g. Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands.
- The upgrades could be done within a week of a referendum, using article 112 of the EEA, for ‘unilateral measures’, while the renegotiation goes on the changing of the EEA http://www.efta.int/eea/eea-agreement
- Ability to make Free Trade Agreements with any country e.g. Canada
Here is a map of the possible expansion of EFTA in the future:-
The possible Opt Outs of the EEA include:
- Movement of people, Articles 28, 29, 30 and 31
- Property ownership, maybe Article 125
Benefits: Likely benefits include:
- Lower living costs
- Higher wage growth
- More democracy
- Easier ability to save for retirement
- Less wasted tax money
- Less government borrowing and/or lower taxes
Questions and Answers:
Q. Why the EFTA/EEA + Opt Out option?
A. It is a working off-the-shelf alternative, and easy to explain in a referendum, also which articles the UK wishes to opt out from, so making it easy to have a meeting within a week of a possible referendum win, to have a clear list for a meeting. This would help speed up negotiations.
Q. The opinion polls show around a 50% -50% split with voters, why not hope the ‘Leave’ campaign can win with a complete ‘Out’ option, and not spelling out what ‘Out’ looks like.
A. This was tried in 1975, and the ‘undecideds’ voted for the status quo and democracy lost by 67% to 33%. EFTA/EEA has support of 71% to 29% EU/EEA, without Don’t Knows. In detail: EFTA/EEA 543%, EU/EEA 22.2%, Don’t Know 23.5%. Giving a larger opportunity for explaining to the Don’t Knows, than other options.
Q. What about defence?
A. Britain would still be a member of the NATO security alliance, and continue working with European allies.
Q. What does the opinion poll show for different regions of the UK?
A. Scotland: EFTA/EEA 68%, EU/EEA 32%
Wales: EFTA/EEA 59%, EU/EEA 41%
London: EFTA/EEA 63%, EU/EEA 37%
UK: EFTA/EEA 71%, EU/EEA 29%
All regions would prefer EFTA/EEA.
Q. Why would the UK use the ‘unilateral measures’ option to implement all the changes early?
A. Britain borrowed 100s of billions during the last government and printed billions of pounds, the country is in a financial mess.
Q. Is there a precedent for the UK simplifying it’s relationship with the EU, leaving EU structures with no problems?
A. Yes, in the early ‘90s, Britain left the European Exchange Rate mechanism – which was holding back the economy – within hours, and followed a policy which worked for the UK economy, and the economy prospered.
Q. What about if the population doesn’t rise?
A. In the 1980’s the population fell slightly and real wages rose by 2.9% above inflation. For example, if someone was earning £7.50/hour 10 years ago, they would now be on £10/hour, for the same job. Unfortunately, pay has hardly risen at all in real terms for a number of people.
Q. How will other EU countries react?
A. Most would respect the democratic choice of the British people. Though, since many UK politicians have practiced years of appeasement, there may be some EU politicians that feel a mistaken feeling of entitlement. The original EEA agreement was signed with 12 EEC countries and 7 EFTA countries, including Sweden, Finland and Austria, in addition to Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland, though the Swiss chose not be a part of the EEA in a referendum.
Q. How will other countries do, with less UK aid?
A. This is a positive opportunity for them. Aid has distorted the voting patterns and rewarded irresponsible voting and policies. The British people are not responsible for other countries voting for corrupt, incompetent and irresponsible politicians. The UK switching to EFTA, will help voters look for honest and competent politicians to vote for, a positive help.
These countries don’t need aid. There are many reasons why some countries prosper more than others, including: culture, philosophy, language, work ethic, law abiding, teamplayer, hiring and promoting on merit, integrity, paying taxes, self-motivation, flexibility, education, choosing/electing good leaders, free enterprise and choice instead of cartels and monopolies, government spending where needed and not to buy votes, government spending getting good quotes and getting value for money. Each country has a unique history, culture and evolution.
Q. Is there a mechanism for countries to join EFTA?
A. Yes, using article 56 of the EFTA Convention
Q. How would the EFTA countries feel about the UK and possibly more countries joining, e.g. Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands.
A. While many EFTA politicians are pro-EU, their public options are pro-EFTA. It is likely the EFTA politicians will take into account public opinion, as well as seeing more EFTA members as a help in shaping policies in Brussels and in global institutions. Especially as these possible newer countries do not look to take away self-government of other countries, or look for financial handouts to bail out irresponsible policies.
In summary the EFTA/EEA + Opt Outs is using an off-the-shelf upgrade, with Opt Outs already used by other countries, leading to simpler and faster implementation, that could benefit the UK economy, productivity and wage growth earlier than other options, helping ‘Undecided’ voters to choose ‘Leave the EU’.
Hugo van Randwyck, has been promoting the EFTA/EEA option as a winnable referendum option for over 10 years. He has also been organising ‘EFTA or EU’ opinion polls since 2010 and has written for a number of outlets including the Bruges Group. He has experience in implementation consulting, operations and marketing, in manufacturing, financial services, utilities, improving productivity, training, quality, sales and energy savings.