Smart Brexit

The Influence Group advocates a ‘Smart Power’ approach to politics.  We’re calling for a Smart Brexit.


Monday, 28 November 2016

The Government has a golden chance to stop the EU forcing us out of the single market – why has it decided not to take it?

  • Membership of the EEA beyond Brexit enhances the UK’s negotiating position as access to the Single Market cannot be treated as a bargaining chip by the EU, and the EU is powerless to force us out.
  • Leaving the European Union does not necessarily mean we automatically leave the EEA – and thus the single market.
  • Remaining in the EEA is fully compatible with the Brexit referendum “red lines” of ending budget contributions to the EU, repatriating legal sovereignty and, to a significant extent, free movement of people. Clarity could both speed-up Brexit and deliver a “smart”, win-win Brexit.

Lawyers for British Influence – the pro-single market think tank – are to write to Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Rt. Hon. David Davis MP, asking his department to clarify its position on the UK membership of the EEA after Brexit, at the beginning of a process which may see a Judicial Review of the Government’s stated position that “As the UK is party to the EEA Agreement only in its capacity as an EU Member State, once we leave the European Union we will automatically cease to be a member of the EEA.”

  1. If the decision about if and when to leave the EEA rests with the UK Government, and is not an “automatic” consequence of leaving the EU, then UK Government has been presented with a golden opportunity to enhance its negotiating position because we cannot be forced to leave the EEA, and the EU cannot hold access to the single market over the UK as a bargaining chip.
  2. There is no legal consensus over whether the UK is a Contracting Party to the EEA only as a member of the EU, and there are strong reasons to suggest membership of the EEA will continue after we leave the EU until such time as we formally trigger our withdrawal from the EEA Agreement by invoking Article 127 of the Agreement.
  3. There is no need to leave the EEA in order to remain within the “red lines” the referendum established.  

Speaking today, British Influence Director Peter Wilding, who coined the term ‘Brexit’, said

This is the solution to Brexit. We believe the Government has not understood the value of remaining in the EEA after Brexit, nor has it understood how we leave the EEA, or that we do not need to leave the EEA in order to respect the red lines the June 23rd referendum established.

The desire here is to help the Government deliver the win-win, “smart” Brexit the British people voted for, which is leaving the European Union, repatriating legal sovereignty, establishing greater control over freedom of movement, and ending direct budgetary contributions, with the option to leave the customs union and make separate free trade agreements, and repatriate control over agriculture and fisheries – all while continuing to be members of the single market, which guarantees jobs, economic prosperity, and free, efficient trade with our biggest market.

This is not about stopping, thwarting or delaying Brexit, but getting a smarter Brexit that delivers for the UK and doesn’t destabilise the continent of Europe. Membership of the EEA after Brexit should be a key objective of the UK Government, and not simply surrendered for a mess of pottage.”

Lawyers instructed by British Influence will be writing to David Davis seeking clarity on the Government’s position ahead of a potential Judicial Review to assess the legal validity of that position. British Influence contends that the Government’s assertion, that leaving the European Union automatically means leaving the EEA, is “unproven”.

It suggests that:

  • Membership of the EU is a gateway to join the EEA, but is not a pre-condition of continued membership of the EEA
  • The UK is a contracting party to the EEA in its own right and must itself trigger Article 127 of the Agreement to in order to leave the EEA, which is a voluntary act and not an obligation upon leaving the EU; and that Article 127 implicitly excludes other means of leaving the EEA, such as leaving the EU
  • That whilst there are currently two pillars for EEA membership (the EU pillar and the EEA pillar) there is nothing to prevent further pillars being established bilaterally

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