Good News

Amid the continuing news about the Greek-Euro turmoil, two under-reported news items perhaps signal two important turning points for Britain.

North Yorkshire Potash mine

On Tuesday last (7th July) the North York Moors National Park Planning Authority gave its agreement to the development of the world’s largest and highest grade deposit of potash.  Despite the wishes of 97% of the people living in the National Park, and the surrounding areas stretching north to Middlesbrough, blighted by unemployment, and their elected representatives, the 242 page planning report recommended rejection of the proposal by Sirius Minerals plc to sink a mine near Whitby and extract the potash in two phases.  Thankfully its recommendation to reject has in turn been rejected by the Park Authority (8 to 7).

Phase One

This will extract 6.5 million tonnes per annum (tpa) of granulated polyhalite and transport it via a 13 mile specially constructed underground tunnel to new handling facilities on Teesside (Wilton).

Phase Two

This is planned to scale up to 13 million tpa, at which level its production of polyhalite for the world’s fertilizer market will contribute about £1.3 billion to the UK balance of payments on a conservative price estimate of $150 per tonne.  Direct jobs created during construction at peak will be 1670 with 1040 skilled jobs for on-going operations.  Indirect jobs will be about equal to these numbers.

This is just the project needed to help push the UK economy towards production and away from its unhealthy emphasis on those business and financial services with little or no export potential.

Senior Swiss and Icelandic Politicians invite Britain to rejoin EFTA after leaving the EU

On a visit to Britain on Thursday/Friday 9th/10th July, Thomas Aeschi and Gudlangur Thordarson, respectively senior members of the Swiss and Icelandic parliaments, extended an invitation to Britain to rejoin the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which she co-founded with six other countries, including Sweden and Denmark, in 1960 as an alternative to the (then) European Economic Community – (EEC – now European Union).  Mr Aeschi is a leading member of the Schweizerische Volkspartei (Swiss People’s party) which is the largest party in the Swiss Federal Assembly with a vote share of 29% – the highest proportion of the vote ever recorded by a single party in Switzerland’s multiparty democracy – pretty much the same as UKIP gained in Britain in 2014 in the European Parliament elections.

Iceland’s Independence Party is the SVP’s equivalent in Iceland’s parliament with 27% of the vote and 19 out of 63 seats, governing in coalition with the Progressive Party, also having 19 seats.  The coalition has now formally withdrawn from EU accession talks which were initiated by its previous government.  In Iceland this decision to withdraw is non-controversial and is very unlikely to be changed by any future Icelandic government.  Clearly Mr Thordarson, like Mr Aeschi, speaks with authority on future UK-EFTA relations.

The detailed case for Britain to rejoin EFTA has been put forward in Chapters 1.2 and 7.3 by this writer in his 2014 Brexit Prize essay “Britain Revitalized – Independence Regained” (see this website).

The Bruges Group, a well-known Eurosceptic think-tank, founded to sustain Margaret Thatcher’s repudiation of greater European integration for Britain in her 1988 speech in Bruges, also seems generally to be in favour of rejoining EFTA.  Many of its contributors however, muddy the waters by proposing that Britain should join the European Economic Area (EEA) at the same time as joining EFTA.

UK joining EEA not in Britain’s interest

As “Britain Revitalized” emphasises, this would absolutely not be in Britain’s interest.  Three of the present four members of EFTA (Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein, but not Switzerland) are also members of the EEA and thereby subject to all the rules and many of the costs of the EU except those pertaining to Agriculture and Fishing (which is Iceland’s main interest).

Movement of People

In particular, the EEA requires members to accept free movement of people (i.e. uncontrolled immigration from elsewhere in the EU).

If the British people vote to leave the EU it will be to explicitly recover independent control of our borders in the form of an immigration policy which would apply to all peoples of the world, EU and non-EU alike.  No way are the campaigners for re-establishing UK independence going to be fobbed off by a relationship with something called confusingly the European Economic Area, which is essentially run in all but a few areas by the European Union, with a name almost the same as the EU’s former name.

European Free Trade Association (EFTA)

EFTA has no legislative baggage (its secretariat in Berne consists of 85 people!).  Its founding treaty is basically unchanged and not subject to fraught time-consuming negotiations every two or three years.  It places no restrictions on its members making trade and investment agreements with third parties, but it offers instead opportunities for its members to form common positions with other groups such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the EU, ASEAN, and to have barrier-free flows of goods and services between its own members.  It is in fact what its name says, an Association of like-minded nations, not a Union bent on becoming a single state.

It is the ideal organisation for a Britain free of EU shackles to join.  As Messrs Aeschi and Thordarson exclaimed, it is plainly “ridiculous” to believe Britain would be isolated outside the EU.  As the fifth biggest economy in the world after the USA, China, Japan and Germany, the reality is every country and trading bloc in the world (including the EU) will “scramble to get a share of its imports”.  This reality check is hopefully another turning point away from the ignorant scaremongering by the corporate Europhile class represented by the spokespersons of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

All those inclined to vote for Britain to leave the EU should make contact with that great majority in the other EFTA members who would welcome Britain back.

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