Negotiations to leave the EU

Christopher Booker (Sunday Telegraph 31st July) among others, seems keen to push the merits of the UK’s joining the European Economic Area (EEA) with a status similar to that of Norway. But the EU, which controls the EEA, has repeatedly said that such a status inevitably involves accepting the free movement of EU nationals into Britain, something which is completely unacceptable to most if not all the 17.4 million people who voted on June 23rd to leave the EU.

There is no reason whatsoever to link free movement to our negotiations on trade. We have voted to resume being an entirely sovereign country once again. None of the 164 non-EU countries in the United Nations would dream of permitting a trading partner to dictate the terms under which its nationals can enter their country. The more this linkage is bandied about, even as a possibility, the more the EU negotiators will seek to use it to gain advantage in the negotiations about trade. Free movement, like another red line matter, namely the assertion of UK fishing rights on the Continental Shelf, needs to be taken completely off the table.

If you need to use an off–the-shelf agreement as Mr Booker puts it, there is one to hand which excludes both free movement and fishing rights. This is the 1996 EU-Turkey free trade agreement which has worked well for 20 years. The price: acceptance of the EU Common External Tariff (CET) on non-EU goods imports (which EEA also requires). For Britain this now averages about 3%, a trivial cost when weighed against the years of uncertainty and product-by-product negotiations avoided if the CET were not accepted. Turkey has been free to make agreements with third parties including one of its earliest – with EFTA, which Britain would be well advised to emulate too.

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