A major international conference is taking place today in London which will explore for the first time what Britain’s alternatives to EU membership are.
It is a cross party conference taking place at the former Conservative Party HQ, where Mrs Thatcher famously waved to the cheering crowds following her 1987 election victory and where William Hague plotted to ‘Save the Pound’.
Ironically, 32 Smith Square is now Europe House, the UK base of the European Commission and European Parliament.
I have organised this conference as I believe that now is the time for positive thinking. Britain must develop a realistic vision of a thriving Britain outside the fast emerging EU superstate.
Britain does need a relationship with Europe but one that is based on trade, not tyranny. One that benefits Britain economically, without destroying us politically.
My own personal preference is for a new deal with the EU. Without being a member of the Union, we can have ‘EEA Lite’ – the vision I will present at Europe House today.
EEA Lite is a lighter and freer form of Norway’s and Iceland’s European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement.
This EEA Agreement has been internationally commended, by the EU and across the world, to have been a great success over 21 years. It would be the ideal basis for such a withdrawal agreement – a format which is proven to work.
EEA Lite, as with the regular EEA, would return powers to the UK, including that of farming, fishing, trade, justice and home affairs, the economy, financial services, employment and social policy.
Not a bad start, I’m sure you will admit. But there are two problems with the current EEA format: influence and immigration.
Many claim that Norway lacks influence because the EU retains control over the EU Single Market.
This may be true, however, this accounts for just nine per cent of Norway’s laws. The other 91 percent Norway controls itself. Compared to the UK, where 50 to 70 per cent of laws are made in Brussels, Norway doesn’t have a bad deal.
However, to ensure Britain does not succumb to even nine per cent control from the EU, I propose that under EEA Lite the UK leaves the EU Single Market and recreates our own UK Single Market.
Sound dramatic? Not really – over half of UK businesses already think the EU Single Market is more of a cost than a benefit, and even the EU puts the costs as 2.5 times the benefits.
Only eight per cent of the UK economy trades with the EU (which equates to 40 percent of our exports to the EU, all exports being only 20 percent of our economy), and only five per cent of UK businesses.
That means the UK would take back control of the 92 percent of the UK economy and 95 percent of businesses that are not trading with the EU and can cut out the masses of EU red tape laid on them – the Working Time, Large Combustion Plant, Emissions and REACH (Chemicals) Directives for example, which make the EU so uncompetitive globally.
But we can do this whilst retaining full access to the EU Single Market for UK exporters and full access to our UK market for EU producers, whilst saving £60 million a day in membership fees (equal to 81 new hospitals a year). Based on what Switzerland and Norway pay, the UK would be contributing £1.5 billion not £20 billion a year gross now.
The British economy is the fifth largest in the world. We can stand on our two feet if we adopt EEA Lite.
I propose a powerful EU-UK Joint Committee, like the EU-Swiss Joint Committee, which would take the form of a mini-summit. As the EU’s largest trading partner, we would use this committee to assert pressure over EU legislation affecting UK exporters and UK businesses, as well as discussing shared foreign affairs and global issues.
On immigration, the ‘regular’ EEA Agreement also has a problem as EU Freedom of Movement goes unchecked.
EEA Lite, therefore, would allow the UK to control EU Freedom of Movement through quotas for selective EU member states – just as Switzerland does now under safeguards, and will have to do more of following its referendum to end mass immigration.
Under EEA Lite, Britain would regain its seat at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and negotiate its own bilateral trade deals again, instead of allowing the European Commission to do so.
We would take back our seats on a host of UN bodies such as the International Labour Organisation which we have gifted to the EU, as well as re-joining EFTA.
Now a Conservative referendum has been promised, we can offer the British people a meaningful choice, between a renegotiated ‘In’ option – and a negotiated and realistic ‘Out’ option.
Today’s cross party conference is about developing a positive future for a Britain outside of the EU.
It is time to develop a realistic vision of a thriving Britain, free from the shackles of an EU Superstate.