There is no guarantee we would even be allowed to try itby Anand Menon / April 22, 2019 / Leave a comment
There’s been a lot of talk about Norway in the Brexit debate of late. And in keeping with the tenor of that debate as a whole, much of it has skipped happily around uncomfortable practicalities such as what a “Norway option” might mean in practice, whether Norway would welcome imitation by us, and whether the EU would even allow us to try.
The idea that membership of the European Economic Area, plus a comprehensive customs arrangement might offer an acceptable way forward in the Brexit process has been propounded by a cross-party group of MPs. Under this scheme we would be in the EU single market along with the 27 EU member states, but like Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland, we would be outside formal EU membership.
The Common Market 2.0 (CM2) plan, however, is rather misleading.
First, proponents of CM2 stress that, while the UK would have to sign up to free movement of workers, the EEA model provides “new controls over free movement in exceptional circumstances.” This is a reference to safeguard measures in the EEA agreement that allow for the temporary suspension of any of the four freedoms—of goods, services, capital and labour.
What the CM2 crowd are less keen to point out is that the bar for application is high. The treaty states that there would need to be “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties” arising from the migration of EEA nationals. To put this in context, at its peak in 2012, net migration to Norway reached the equivalent of around 0.9 per cent of its population, the UK’s peak in 2015 was 0.5 per cent. To reach the Norwegian peak, the UK would need to see 594,000 net arrivals per year, more than a quarter of a million people above its highest of 336,000.
Clearly, the fact Norway does not invoke the emergency brake does not necessarily mean that the UK could not. Circumstances vary from country to country. Equally, however, the Norwegian case offers a salutary warning that current migration levels might not necessarily be seen among other member states as representing exceptional circumstances.
Moreover, the process for triggering the brake is not unilateral. Article 113 EEA specifies the need for notification of the contracting parties and consultation with the joint committee to find a “commonly acceptable solution.”
The second key claim…