Monday, 21 August 2017

The 'EEAplus Half Brexit' Proposal - Practical Solution With Expected Majority Support

How can the UK collaborate with the EU on economic and important non-political matters whilst otherwise maintaining independence?  Not just now but for the long term?

How can that be done in a way that is supported by the EU, and would achieve support from the majority of the UK electorate? Regardless of general politics?

What is the key to a UK/EU settlement?

One option to consider is the 'EEAplus Half Brexit' proposal.  It does 'what it says on the tin' for the long term:

  • The UK would join an upgraded 'EEAplus', being the current European Economic Area upgraded to:
    • Boost the UK's involvement in decisions, and 
    • Add any EU trading aspects not currently covered by the EEA agreements
  • The UK would otherwise leave the EU, including no need for MEPs
  • But the UK would retain collaboration in key non-political pan-European initiatives that do not need the UK to be EU members, such as the Open Skies initiative for air travel
Freedom of Movement (FOM) of People would need to be retained. Crucially a recent poll  found that the UK electorate put staying in the Single Market with FOM above restricting FOM by over two to one. The proposal arises from that preference.

The key benefits of a 'EEAplus Half Brexit' would be that the trading relationship with the EU would remain unaltered, so no risk of a negative economic impact to the UK from Brexit.  Nor would there be any impact on the EU's trade with the UK.

Furthermore all three key negotiation issues that have stalled would be resolved:

  1. Irish Border which would continue to be open as at present
  2. Rights of EU27 citizens in UK and Brits in EU27 countries
  3. Settlement of 'divorce bill, covered by new annual contributions
 In addition:
  • As a result of no economic impact from Brexit, Sterling would regain much of the 15-20% loss since the referendum.  This would reduce import prices and avoid the unwelcome impact of rising import prices on general inflation
  • The proposal broadly fulfils the objectives of each main political party.  The upgraded EEA may even count as the 'new deal' sought by the ruling Conservatives, though the proposal would probably not provide them with direct trade deals by the UK with other countries
  • An 'EEAplus' could provide an exit route for any country wanting to leave the EU but remain in a trading relationship.  That might include Greece, which currently is in the euro, and Sweden, which like the UK still has its own currency
  • The European Court of Justice (ECJ), which oversees EU matters and is such a hot issue for many, would be replaced for most purposes by the Courts of the EEA, upgraded as necessary. There has to be some way of enforcing the rules of the Single Market, but not those dread letters ECJ..
  • The UK would retain the right to rejoin the EU, though that would probably require adopting the Euro.  (This is another reason not to leave completely now and potentially rejoin for economic purposes later)
Proposals with a similar name have been made before, but this proposal has been crafted separately and is somewhat different. 


'EEAplus Half Brexit' solves a number of key economic issues for the EU.  The EU27 countries export a lot of goods to the UK, including German cars, French foods, and Dutch produce.  There's also crucial supply chains that span the English Channel for other manufacturers, plus trade across the Irish border.  The EU27 want to keep that trade.

But the EU and specifically the German car industry has made it clear that they are prepared to sacrifice that trade to avoid the risk of a break-up of the EU.  That would arise if a country leaving the EU 'club' completely were keep equal trading rights whilst avoiding the commitments of club members.  Clearly that would be unacceptable in any club.

The 'EEAplus Half Brexit' idea would avoid crossing two critical EU 'red lines':
  • Maintain Freedom of Movement of People, not just workers
  • Avoid the UK enjoying all the benefits of a trading relationship with the EU without the commitments of EU members
The EU federalist dream of ever-closer political integration to become the United States of Europe can still drive forward with over 20 countries. But not with the UK.

There may need to be some compromise by the EU, but that's negotiation. All the right side of their key red lines.  On balance the EU should accept the 'EEAplus Half Brexit' idea as better for the EU than any other idea involving the UK leaving the EU.


As noted above, a recent poll  found that the UK electorate put staying in the Single Market with FOM above restricting FOM by over two to one.

This is consistent with the analysis in the Footnote below, that suggests views on Brexit follow a Normal Distribution.  That would mean between 60% and 80% of the UK electorate would be expected to support such a proposal.   That's groups B-D in the diagram, plus possibly some of E.

The only people disappointed would be those at either end of the spectrum.  That is those strongly pro-EU in A and the hard Brexiters in F who want to be completely independent of Europe.

A lot of people have said we need to heal the 50:50 divide that still exists in the country between Leave and Remain.  'EEAplus Half Brexit' would do that with a clear majority, in a way that stopping Brexit to keep in the Single Market wouldn't.


The UK is currently publishing "Position Papers" on key issues such as today on Future Customs Arrangements.  The likelihood is that these papers will be largely rejected by the EU, crossing the red lines as discussed above.  The danger is that talks will stall completely.

Whilst some people would welcome the UK just walking away from talks, the practicalities are horrendous and cannot realistically be completed by March 2019:
  • Paragraph 13 of the Future Customs Arrangements paper says of the new Government proposal (which would also be required if walking away) "...we will again take up our independent seat at the WTO. ... we will prepare schedules that replicate as far as possible our current obligations..."There are hundreds of such schedules on individual products and will take years of negotiation to separate out specific quantities for the UK
  • The changes to Government and business IT systems will likely take a minimum of three years
The 'EEAplus Half Brexit' idea would avoid all of this, and is a much more practical alternative.

The steps would be
  • EU agree to the proposal in principle by the end of 2017
  • If necessary put the proposal to the UK electorate in a referendum in Spring 2018.  
  • That would give business and government 12 months to make relatively minor tweaks to systems and processes. 
  • Should the referendum alternative require longer, then a longer transition period will be needed

What has changed since the vote in Parliament to invoke Article 50 is that there is now a cross-party APPG, consisting of MPs from all parties including Labour and Conservative, effectively campaigning to stay in the Single Market.  Their support of the 'EEAplus Half Brexit' idea could make all the difference in Parliament as the various Brexit bills are debated. 


There is enough in the 'EEAplus Half Brexit' proposal to be worthy of serious consideration.  That is especially if there is further deadlock in the UK/EU negotiations.  MPs need to consider whether it is in fact in the country's best interests, given the likely level of public support.


Those who are 'pro-EU' are keen to join the federalist dream of the EU so:
  • Want the UK to become one of the United States of Europe
  • Want the UK to adopt the Euro in place of Pound Sterling
At the other end of the spectrum there are 'Brexiters' who want to have nothing at all to do with the EU, other than some form of free trade deal.

In the middle there is potentially a far larger group who want to collaborate with their European neighbours whilst maintaining a degree of independence.  Greater in number but not so vocal.

Indeed we can split the UK electorate into six groups across the Brexit spectrum.  As the Single Market will inevitably require Free Movement of People, border control is covered by the Single Market: 

Single Market
Embrace the EU
Pro-EU Lite
A little scepticism
Mildly Remain
Some scepticism
Mildly Leave
Somewhat more sceptical
Clearly Leave

Group A, as mentioned above, want to embrace the federalist dream of the EU

Group B want to maintain arrangements in the EU as they are, with MEPs but maintaining the Pound.  'Pro-EU Lite' if you like.

Group C does not want to be sucked into the federalist model at some later date.  They want to maintain as much independence for the UK as possible whilst collaborating with our European neighbours.  This is by maintaining the UK's position in the Single Market and other non-political initiatives like Open Skies.  Prepared to otherwise leave the full EU, and prepared to lose MEPs..

Group D are those whose concern about a federalist EU is somewhat stronger, and so on balance voted Leave.  But this was a close decision.  They would still like to stay in the Single Market if possible.

Group E are keener on an independent UK, including control of the UK's borders.  But still are open to remaining in the Single Market if that makes economic sense to them as individuals. 

Group F are the Brexiters who want nothing to do with the EU other than a free trade agreement

Experience of talking to people suggests the six groups are broadly in accordance with a normal distribution:

The two outer groups are vocal, as is the case with most matters. It's the 'silent majority' in the middle that are the most important.  The 'EEAplus Half Brexit' is for them

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