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,

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!

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  1. StevenReply

    Could we impose capital controls as well as stringent (weak ones are simply not sufficient to deal with this important issue properly) immigration ones if we joined EFTA? The EU has four fundamental freedoms ie freedom of movement for capital, people, goods and services. I only agree with the last two and I thought I was voting against the first ones when voting leave in the referendum. All this problem over what Brexit actually means has been caused by successive British governments since the 1960’s refusing to discuss the full implications of membership and steadfastly saying no to referendums on individual treaties like Mrs Thatcher’s actions of joining us to the Single Market in the 1980’s without a say as the Irish had. Also, having an electoral system which makes our so-called ‘parliamentary democracy’ an archaic fraud and sick joke because our votes at general elections don’t translate into representatives in the House of Commons anywhere near accurately hasn’t helped matters.

  2. StevenReply

    If we were to join EFA/EEA could we unilaterally impose tough restrictions on immigration (just soft ones won’t deal with the problem) or stop migration entirely from these other EU countries? Also, would it be possible to end or heavily restrict the export of capital from Britain? I only agree with TWO of the fundamental ‘four freedoms of the EU’ ie freedom of movement for goods and services and not the other two. This whole problem with Brexit has been caused by British governments failing to understand either themselves or communicating to the people the full implications of the so-called ‘pooling’ of our sovereignty with these pan-European organisations.

    If Brexit doesn’t achieve full self-governance for this country again then it isn’t worth pursuing. Leave SHOULD MEAN leaving and not being in a ‘half-way’ house without full sovereignty.

    • John Petley
      John PetleyReply

      We could impose tough restrictions on immigration from the EU. There is no political will (At least at the moment) to curtail immmigration from the EU altogether, so this is a purely academic issue. Restricting the export of capital is possible (Iceland did it) but unlikely, especailly given the importance of London as a financial centre, including currency trading.

      Brexit, even under the EEA/EFTA route, would mean self-governance. Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein aren’t in the EU. We could do better long-term, but the dithering by the government since the referendum result means that it’s the only feasible alternative for any realistic Brexit given how short the timescale is – at least, unless one of the EFTA detractors can come up with something better. The Bruges group did produce an alternative that would have seen us out of the EEA as well as the EU, but by the authors’ own admissions, it would have been pretty tight to complete it even within the full Article 50 timescale. As we’re over half way through the two-year period, the window for it has gone.

      • maryReply

        The EFTA solution sounds plausible enough in some ways, But for a start re Immigration : would we not need simultaneously to go through the motions of formally exiting the EU? This would be per article 50, (since lamentably our leaders are unwilling to simply repeal the Act of Accession 1972 ). Article 50 is a trick to keep us tied to the EU and confers “vested rights” on all those who were EU citizens as at the date of our exit, plus their families, to come to UK and enjoy full UK citizen rights. For all time, even after we’ve left EU ! This applies whether or not they are in UK.
        So for a start we could never be in the relatively enviable situation of say Norway : our situation will always be different since lamentably we have allowed ourselves to be swallowed further down the one-way EU crocodile jaw !
        I’m very strongly inclined to say just leave, but have the UK electorate got the nerve to see it through.

        • John Petley
          John PetleyReply

          Mary, as far as I am aware, by triggering Article 50 we will be out of the EU on 29th March next year. “The treaties will cease to apply” and it will be a clean break. In re-joining EFTA and maintaining our access to the single market this way, we will not be under EU control but a signatory to an existing agreement between the EU and three of the four EFTA states.

          The problem therefore is not Article 50 but any agreement which this government may be seeking with the EU. The EFTA option is far from perfect but it will do for now. It would remove the need for a transitional agreement. See this post on EU Referendum which explains things better than I Can.

          • mary

            I am just looking at the link as you suggest, thanks.

            Just for the record, you may be interested to see the document that details the problems attached to article 50, including vested rights: Gerard Batten’s ” Taking Control: the UKIP plan for leaving the EU”. This shows how article 50 is a trick, and the only effective way to leave is to repeal the 1972 Act of Accession.
            However at the moment this is just not going to happen, as we are lamentably stuck with the Government we’ve got. So, as you say, we’ve got top work round that..

          • mary

            I may seem pedantic but I’m trying to get this clear in my own mind. The only way a clean break could be achieved is by repealing the 1972 Act of Accession. If no deal was reached by 29/13/18, and the Government decided unilaterally to leave, I think that is how it would happen. So yes it would be a clean break.
            However: I know we triggered article 50, but I feel that it is misleading to call such an exit an article 50 exit: article 50 leaves you burdened with all sorts of obligations hidden in the small print which you can only get out of by repealing the 1972 act. Eg vested rights of all EU citizens (as at brexit date) whether or not they’ve ever been in the UK.


  3. Adam HileyReply

    We would need to get rid of the main 3 useless parties if We want no more immigrants the populist party have sensible policies unlike the banker loving Tory Party

  4. Phil JonesReply

    EFTA or EFTA/EEA means half-in, half-out of the European Union. Absolutely no way. Nigel Moore and Christopher Booker and others are only suggesting it as a sop to business to avoid the necessary leap necessary for the UK to become a self-governing independent ‘third country’ (I refer to so-called ‘third countries’ as ‘countries’ and to ‘EU countries’ as ‘provinces’, thus avoiding the confusion as to the meaning of the word ‘country’. Best to use the word ‘nation’ or ‘Member State’ when describing the parts of the EU.) Switzerland is the only EFTA nation that is not also in the EEA. You just have to look at the problems that Switzerland is having with the EU to appreciate that it is not the way for the UK to go. The Swiss people are against free movement but have been forced to accept such movement as a condition for bilateral trade agreements with the EU. That is the trade-off. Business carries right on smoothly but the nation has to accept the conditions of being part (quasi-province or quasi-Member State) of a larger country. I refer to it as half-in, half-out, since Switzerland is not in total control of who can enter its borders. Control over who can enter its borders is a condition of being a country (‘country’ being used in the international sense of the word, not the Scottish ‘common culture and history’ secondary sense). In June 2016 I voted for Leave which to me meant that the UK would return to being an independent country with no more political ties to the EU than has the US, Brazil, S Africa, Russia or any other so-called ‘third country’. And what are we getting?! Endless talk of calling that option ‘Hard Brexit’. It was the only Brexit as far as I’m concerned (and I believe most others voting in June 2016 felt the same way). We had gone through Project Fear on the consequences of the UK returning to be a separate independent country and David Cameron made it very plain indeed that Leave meant just that — and yet here we are almost two years later and still having to listen to talk of the UK not totally regaining its political freedom, with talk of EFTA and EFTA/EEA. Please no more endless articles from Nigel Moore and the others pushing for the UK to remain politically half-in, half-out of the EU!! I would never ever be in favour of such betrayal of my vote in 2016. Given the EU will never accept a trade deal with the UK where the UK does not remain at least partially politically within the EU’s influence, the only solution is to walk away. UK businesses will adjust in the same way that they adjusted after the sudden OPEC crisis in the 1970s. The British people voted for total political separation with the EU. Let’s get on with it!!

    • maryReply

      The EU and Government in their pig -headed determination to make Brexit fail, would probably ensure that a clean break from EU was perceived as resulting – initially at least- in something between a bumpy landing and a plane crash ! After all the EU has for decades been busy tying us up in this Gordian knot in order to make exit difficult. But if you weigh up the consequences of remaining in EU against any potential “bumpy landing”, my personal view is : brazen it out , hold your nerve and extricate completely and immediately , from the EU’s tentacles! The big problem is, we have a corrupt Government. And would most of the electorate back us up when push came to shove? Would they be clamouring to re-join if there were difficulties, no doubt spun to maximum advantage by the MSM?
      Incidentally I never cease to wonder at the EU’s and Government’s hypocrisy: they have abandoned all attempts at controlling immigration and law and order, yet can maintain very stringent customs checks when it suits them, I am thinking here of the lorry snarl ups at say Dover.
      On the other hand, whatever Nigel Moore’s motives, his suggestion would ensure that Brexit was perceived to be planned and smooth. (The perception is important). It might make less likely the deplorable situation where negotiations dragged on for years then brexit was overturned. So yes I see the logic in what he says.

  5. Adam HileyReply

    the only way to save Brexit is to pressure the Tory party to do a Thatcher style ousting on Theresa May along with Hammond

  6. Gordon WebsterReply

    Why can’t we just leave, and make Trade Deals individually with the different countries we are told are lining up to make them? Why must we be part of any group, with rules imposed on us by people we don’t know? And why does Britain appear to be the only country which not only knows the rules, but insists on obeying them better than any other Treaty Member? What is wrong with the people we elect, that they care more for others than they do for us?

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