A leading European jurist says the plan for temporary EEA membership needs improvementby Carl Baudenbacher / October 30, 2018 / Leave a comment
In recent weeks, a movement has emerged in British politics that believes it can overcome the current Brexit crisis. It is called “Norway for now” and was launched by the Conservative MP and former minister Nick Boles. The basic idea is to have the transition period under the auspices of the EU replaced by a transition period in the safe harbour of the European Economic Area/European Free Trade Association. This would allow Britain to maintain the continuity of its customs arrangements while finalising the details of its future relationship with the EU. Boles and others believe that after this transition, the UK should go for a Canada-style free trade agreement with the EU.
The new roadmap is at first sight attractive. Firstly, it seems be quite popular. Secondly, it has become clear that Chequers has no chance of realisation. Thirdly, the prospect of the PM signing a Brexit deal with the EU that is then overturned by the Commons is scary as it could mean the country leaving without a deal. Fourthly, holding a second referendum would be problematic from the perspective of democracy.
If you take a closer look, however, you will discover that “Norway for now” meets with considerable concerns. The first is the name. Not only the EU and Norway, but also Iceland and Liechtenstein would have to give their consent. Even small and very small states have their pride, and rightly so. Secondly, the question arises where the incentive would be for three EEA/EFTA states to offer Britain a safe harbour in order to be left in the lurch.
The EU has always signalled that EEA membership in the EFTA pillar is a valid option for the UK. But whether it would have an interest in the UK’s membership being limited in time remains an open question.
The fourth EFTA State, Switzerland, is not in the EEA and therefore does not feature in some versions of the plan. However, a precondition for UK EEA membership on the EFTA side, even if temporary, would be EFTA membership. And here Switzerland, together with Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, would have a say.
On the basis of my 15 years of experience as the EFTA Court’s President, I take the liberty to make the following proposal: the “Norway for now” plan should be modified without losing momentum. The idea of the…