4 Jan 2016

Flexcit vs Hard Exit: An exchange of differing Brexit viewpoints

To Flexcit or Hard Exit, that is the question.

The Leave side of the referendum debate is split.  It is split between those who want the phased withdrawal from the EU that disentangles the EU from governance over Britain, as set out in Flexcit; and those who support the idea of a hard exit from the EU in expectation of securing a swift bilateral trade agreement with the EU.

A direct message exchange on Twitter earlier today highlighted the arguments of both sides in a way that when reproduced on this blog may help people understand and clarify the thinking on this side of the debate. I hope it's of interest.

The tweeter who supports a hard exit wrote:
I do not believe in Flexcit or Flexit, nor do I think it is deirable to re-enter EFTA until it leaves the EEA. Otherwise we have one foot out and one foot in the EU and are subject to too many of its regulations. I do not think we should enter Schengen. Nor do I think we should continue to have to accept unlimited and unpredictable numbers of EU nationals or people with EU residency papers - many unskilled - as Norway has to. I think that we are such a large and important economy with such huge buying power (we're the EU's biggest export market) that the EU will definitely and very quickly negotiate and ratify a bilateral free trade agreement with us as they have done with Mexico and South Korea, for example, both smaler economies than ours. However, I do think that if EFTA withdraws from the EEA then we should consider re-joining it.
In reply, in support of Flexcit, I wrote:
As you can see, we have a fundamental disagreement about how to best serve Britain's interests after a Brexit.

It might be worth me pointing out that EFTA cannot leave the EEA because it isn't part of it. EFTA does not have any relationship with the EEA, rather it is some EFTA member states that have the relationship with the EEA (you will note Switzerland is in EFTA but not in the EEA). 

Being an EFTA state and part of the EEA after a Brexit does not mean we have one foot in and one foot out of the EU. Brexit means we are not a member of the EU. I feel you may not realise or accept that the majority of regulations to which we are subject as EU members will still apply to us after Brexit, as they originate and are driven by global bodies. Whether we are in the EU, only part of EEA as an EFTA member state, or whether we enjoy some bilateral trade agreement with the EU, our exporters will need to maintain regulatory compliance, convergence and standard in order for their products to be legally saleable.

Like you, I do not want to enter Schengen. Being part of the EEA as an EFTA state - which would only be on an interim basis - would facilitate the continuation of trade that consistent majorities of polled voters tell us they feel is important. For that duration we would still need to accept freedom of movement as you know, but if we choose, we can do so without the shackle of the ECHR and without being bound by the ECJ. This enables removal of undesirables and will stop the abuse of the HRA to frustrate our ability to remove undesirables. It would not be permanent as for the duration of being an EFTA state Britain can be negotiating the kind of trade agreement we both want. The thing here is the need to maintain current economic and commercial ties. A hard exit from the EU without a deal will be disastrous.

Your examples of Mexico and South Korea actually underpin my viewpoint. Do you realise how many years it took to negotiate those deals? We cannot risk hamstringing our economic and commerical interests until a deal can be thrashed out. I don't think you appreciate that the time it would take to negotiate a Britain-EU deal, given the greater complexity of the relationship we would be looking to replace, would be far longer than the Mexico and South Korea deals. Trade deals are about protectionism and barriers, what is permitted and what isn't. It would not be a quick deal with the EU because of the self interest of 27 member states who may be looking to get more out of us.

Anyway, I think this lays bare our differing viewpoints. Our destination is actually the same, but the phased method of getting there that I endorse is something you don't accept. I respect that but I suspect, perhaps as you think of mine in return, that your roadmap is fundamentally flawed and inherently dangerous.