The Think Tank British Influence will seek a judicial review on the matterby Jonathan Lis / December 2, 2016 / Leave a comment
The European Economic Area (EEA) was an unlikely topic of conversation on breakfast radio this Monday morning. Although many of us are by now quite familiar with the basic structures of the EU, the EEA is a far more obscure cousin, poorly understood even by some EU experts. Comprising the 28 EU member states, plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, it offers single market access in almost all sectors except agriculture and fisheries. The non-EU states are expected to implement the four freedoms of movement of goods, services, capital and people (with discretionary safeguards not individually available to the EU states), but do not pay directly into the EU budget, retain their legal sovereignty, and have the right to establish bilateral or multilateral free trade agreements.
Because just under 99 per cent of the EEA’s population also live in the EU, with much deeper political and economic integration, the bloc is seldom discussed in the corridors of power in Brussels. Its fleeting moments in the British spotlight during the referendum campaign emerged when Remainers and Leavers both analysed the merits of the so-called “Norway option” after Brexit. Even in the months since, the EEA has normally been referred to as an organisation to which Britain would have to re-apply after the negotiations, with the theoretical possibility of a veto by any other contracting party—including Liechtenstein, a country smaller than King’s Lynn. But this remains an assumption: and if our Think Tank, British Influence, is correct in its contention that the UK may be party to the EEA Agreement in its own right, rather than as a member of the EU, then we cannot be ejected from this looser European club by the EU.