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#Brexit: Why wouldn’t the #UK seize the opportunity to stay in the EEA?

| November 28, 2016 | 0 Comments

brexit-3The UK government has been presented with a golden opportunity to try to keep the UK in the Single Market whether the EU likes it or not, but it has rejected that opportunity out of hand, says Jonathan Lis, Deputy Director of

According to Lis, there is no legal consensus that the UK is a contracting party to the EEA only as a member of the EU. There are numerous reasons why it may be a member in its own right: Article 127 of the EEA Agreement, for example, requires members to give 12 months’ notification to leave, without any reference to Article 50; Article 128 states that countries acceding to the EU ‘may’ apply to join the EEA, but are not compelled to, and indeed Croatia joined 9 months after its EU accession – which suggests that the two organizations operate separately from each other; the UK has signed and ratified the agreement and is considered one of the 31 contracting parties; and, after all, non-EU member states are also present in the EEA. Even if we are not there independently, there may be a case for ‘grandfathering’ the agreement after Brexit – which the Government also seems not to be considering.

The fact that the UK dismisses these arguments suggests that it is deliberately aiming for a ‘hard Brexit’ outside the Single Market. This option was not on the referendum ballot paper. Membership of the EEA would guarantee UK legal sovereignty, control over budget payments and even, to an extent, free movement. The power in the negotiations would switch from the EU to the UK immediately. Why wouldn’t the UK seize the opportunity not only to stay in the EEA, but to stop the EU forcing us out?

There is a strong chance that the UK will be acting unlawfully by taking us out of the EEA with Brexit, and so will the EU by requiring us to leave. Having alerted them to this possibility, they have an obligation to seek urgent clarification in the courts. No government can proceed with a course of action while knowing it could be unlawful, just for the sake of convenience. The Single Market is a British invention and guarantee of British prosperity: if there is a chance that we can stay in without any possibility to remove us, we must take it.

The Government should welcome this intervention. If it transpires that we are in the EEA independently, the time-limited Article 50 talks can focus on tying up the other complex issues while both sides are aware that our Single Market access is not under threat. This EEA solution gives Leave voters everything they were asking for, while guaranteeing our existing trading arrangements and economic prosperity.

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Category: A Frontpage, Brexit, EU, European Parliament, Politics, UK

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