August 8, 2017

Why we must leave the single market

Why we must leave the single market

Ben Somervell explains why failure to leave the single market would leave us with the worst of both worlds: adherence to the stringent regulations of the EU, while not having a seat at the table to influence our legislative future.

According to the EU’s treaties, there is no such thing as the “single market” – there is only the internal market/European Economic Area (EEA) which shows that it really is an inherent part of the EU and that, if you leave the EU but don’t leave the EEA, you haven’t really left the EU. During the referendum campaign, both Remain and Leave campaigners made it clear that a vote to leave would mean leaving the EEA.
In October, a YouGov poll showed that 47 per cent of voters support leaving the EU and the EEA, compared to only 39 per cent who support leaving the EU and remaining within the EEA and another YouGov poll from 16th January this year showed that 74 per cent of leave voters supported our exit from the EU and the EEA. The House of Commons and the House of Lords effectively approved a clean Brexit when they voted to invoke Article 50.
The Prime Minister said on the Andrew Marr Show that the German Finance Minister had made it clear that upon a vote to leave the EU, the UK would have to leave the EU and the EEA. Since the referendum, the President of the European Council has also made the same point. He said there is no hard or soft Brexit – you leave the EU and the EEA or you don’t leave the EU at all. The only way in which we are currently a member of the EEA is through our membership of the EU. Before we joined the EU, we were not members of the EEA. Therefore, after we officially leave the EU, we will no longer be members of the EEA. Robin Walker confirmed this when he was Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the EU when he said the “EEA Agreement will automatically cease to apply” on 1 April 2019. Philip Hammond also confirmed this recently when he said, “when we leave the European Union we will leave the single market and the customs union. That’s not a matter of choice; that’s a matter of legal necessity”.
Only countries which are already members of the EU or the EFTA (European Free Trade Association) can become new members of the EEA but on 1 April 2019, we will not be members of the EU or the EFTA. It could take months for us to apply for EFTA membership and, through that, EEA membership. A government minister in Norway has said that they may veto an application from the UK to join the EFTA after Brexit. It’d be legally impossible for us to seamlessly remain a member of the EEA even if voters wanted it to.

Leaving the internal market is crucial as even its name alone implies that it is an intrinsic pillar of the EU whose ultimate arbiter is the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg. The EEA was specifically designed as a temporary stepping to full EU membership for countries like Norway whose government and political leaders support EU membership but whose electorates don’t.

Furthermore, the official Vote Leave campaign had a number of key pledges: to take control of our laws, money and borders. We can only do any of these things if we leave the EU and the EEA. Leave campaigners talked about the EEA as being a “single regulatory zone” and argued against our membership as it means that 100 per cent of UK businesses have to abide by 100 per cent of the EU’s pedantic, unnecessary and burdensome regulations, even though only six per cent of UK businesses ever export to the EU. This burden is particularly heavy for small and medium sized businesses. If we leave the EU and the EEA and negotiate a unique, bespoke, bilateral UK-EU free trade agreement, only the six per cent of UK businesses that ever export to the EU will have to abide by its regulations. If we were to stay in the EEA, we’d still have to make net annual payments of billions each year and accept free movement.

So what will our trading relationship be? It will either be a bilateral UK-EU free trade agreement or reverting to most-favoured nation status on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. However, the former outcome is more likely as a free trade deal is in our own interests and is even more so in the EU’s interests. Even the EU’s own Trade Commissioner has stated that there will be a free trade deal with the UK ‘for sure’. Even if we were to leave the EU without any deal at all we’d still be better off than we are now and we’d still be better off than the EU would be from this arrangement. Around five to six million EU jobs depend on exports to the UK and so the EU are unlikely to put these jobs and €290 billion of export profits at risk.

Every country in the world has access to the EEA. Over 50 non-EU countries have free trade agreements with the EU which don’t involve annual payments or the freedom of movement of people. Hong Kong is the EU’s 7th largest single market and so is much less important to the EU than the UK is and yet the Hong Kong has its own free trade agreement with the EU which gives it free access to the EEA. This deal took just over 2 years to negotiate. Under Tony Abbott, Australia negotiated three new bilateral free trade deals in just one year. With the UK, this should be quicker because we already have 100 per cent regulatory equivalence with the EU, we’ve no tariffs or quotas to negotiate away and are the EU’s most important export destination.

5.00 avg. rating (98% score) - 8 votes
Ben Somervell
Ben Somervell is a Burkean conservative and a social, moral and fiscal conservative. He strongly supports Britain's exit from the European Union, its internal market and its customs union as well as our withdrawal from the European Arrest Warrant and the European Convention on Human Rights. He is primarily interested in theology and UK politics. He has his own blog at:
  • Andrew Mitchell

    Not made clear? So when the head people on the remain side including David Cameron, George Osborne, Nick Clegg, Mark Carney and the rest, all said “a vote to leave the EU will mean we also leave the single market and the customs union” then those on the leave side including Farage, Hannan, Stewart, Johnson, Gove, and the rest all said “a vote to leave the EU will mean leaving the single market and the customs union” but you didn’t pick up on any of these? Your either telling porkies or, you were out of the country in some where that didn’t have TVs or newspapers, but apart from what they said, what is the single market? Its the thing we joined all those years ago only back then it was called “the common market” that is what we joined, so if your in the single market your still in the EU, keep in mind that what your wanting this country to do, is the one thing that every important person involved in both campaigns, that’s leave & remain, all said would be the worst of all outcomes, the half in half out deal, where you have to apply all the rules, pay the fees, yet have zero say in anything, and the cheery on the cake is? Freedom of movement would still apply, now I voted out for other reasons, not the immigration thing, but many did vote for that reason, what you people are demanding is that the democratic choice of the people is ignored, one more thing, the idea that everyone who voted out didn’t know what they were voting for, the people who come out with comments like this are without doubt the most out of touch, snobs on the planet, I worked in the EU for two years, I know more about the EU than any remainer! Plus I have common sense which means their the halfwit not me!

  • Ben

    I’m glad you think that, technically, we will leave the EU and its internal market on 29/03/2019. It is true that some leading leave campaigners did point to Switzerland as one example of a successful non-EU economy located in Europe. However, they didn’t specifically recommend the Swiss or Norwegian models for the UK during the campaign. If you haven’t already, I would urge you to read the full and significantly extended version of the above article on my new Brexit blog here: which addresses many of your points in full.

  • Grope_of_Big_Horn

    That video backs up my point in my view. All the people shown are giving their opinions on talk-shows where they are asked for their opinions. They did not argue from a legal or technical point of view either. They were after your vote on the ballot. Did you spot Gove being asked ‘Do you think that . .’ and Marr saying ‘there is room for a PM to negotiate . . .’. It’s all clearly opinion. I was hoping you might have something from Hansard at least. And Cameron is proven to have lied in the campaign on Norway’s contributions and on whether he would remain as PM.
    If I had a grant I could do you a video of people making the liberal case for Brexit, which involves keeping free trade and free movement of honest workers.
    Or I could do you a video of lots of leave campaigners mentioning ‘Switzerland’ to win their argument.
    Aah, but you might say those people were not the ‘leading campaigners’. Although Leadsom, Farage, and Johnson used the Switzelrand argument at various points they are no more important than you or me. It really was a referendum on whether to leave membership of the EU for crying out loud. A question which Parliament and the Electoral Commission went to a lot of effort into deciding we should have and the wording on the ballot. We were not electing Vote Leave. There was nobody seeking public office based on the vote itself. No single person had more say than anyone else because that is how referenda work.
    It really is up to some combination of Government and Parliament to decide what should happen now. Or ask the public again.
    I concede the technical point that we leave the EEA on 290319, but cannot see why bilateral arrangements that replicate it from 300319 are impossible.

  • Ben

    Thanks for commenting. I’m afraid I disagree with you and my full and significantly extended version of this article here: explains in full why. It would be legally impossible for us to seamlessly remain members of the EU’s internal market so we will leave it at midnight on 29/03/2019. Even the President of the European Council has said either you have a “hard Brexit” or no Brexit at all. The question, in your case, is actually should we then, once we’ve left, have a referendum on re-joining the internal market. I strongly oppose internal market membership for the reasons I explain in the full version of this article (vast annual net payments of billions per year, free movement and over-regulation).

    All of the leading remain and leave campaigners clearly stated throughout the campaign that, upon a vote to leave, we would leave the internal market. Watch the following video of them all saying it: Parliament effectively approved of the Government’s clean Brexit plan when it voted for Article 50 and 83.2% voted for parties supporting our exit from the internal market and 91% of MPs are from parties which support our exit from the internal market.

  • Ben

    Thank you very much for your kind words. You can read the full and significantly extended versions of all of my articles on Brexit on my new Brexit blog here:

  • Grope_of_Big_Horn

    A curious piece which seems to consist of two arguments. The second is that it is a jolly good idea to leave the EEA. The first argument though is the assertion that “During the referendum campaign, both Remain and Leave campaigners made it clear that a vote to leave would mean leaving the EEA.” This was not clear at all.
    What was clear was that staying in the EU guaranteed remaining in the EEA – that £9million leaflet said that, but nothing was said in that leaflet that guaranteed the corollary. It was left as an open issue. And those who make the claim that it was made clear are relying on politicians’ opinions on opinion-based talk shows that the consequence of a leave vote would also result in leaving the EEA. Well none of those people went back to Parliament or the Electoral Commission to get the question on the ballot changed. None of them said there was a mistake in the 2015 conservative manifesto as to what the referendum was about. And nowhere have I read that the opinion of a German chancellor who didn’t have a vote counts for more than my actual vote.
    In addition several leave campaigners from Richard North, Roland Smith, the Adam Smith Institute, individuals at the IEA, and the Icelandic ambassador made it clear that EEA would remain an option. Aah, but the Icelandic ambassador didn’t have a vote, you say. That’s right, and neither did the German chancellor, so let’s keep both of them out of it.
    And on top of that people like Dan Hannan, Andrea Leadsom, Boris Johnson and Gisela Stuart during the campaign, when a one-word rebuttal to any pro-EU argument was required said ‘Switzerland’. Yes I know Switzerland is not in the EEA, but it has free movement and bilateral agreements that broadly replicate EEA membership. Even Nigel occasionally slipped Switzerland into his arguments in his campaign which for him began a couple of decades earlier.
    Have I made myself clear that it was not clear? It really is down to some combination of Parliament and Government to decide this. Unless they want to give the public another go at the ballot box.

  • Mojo

    The Remainiacs must surely know this and yet still they are fighting for us to remain in the Single Market. We are even beginning to hear of yet another court case being brought in order to keep us in. It will be taxpayers money that has to defend this case if it goes ahead, taxpayers who will suffer if they have to remain in the Single Market. Worse thing is our small and medium businesses will suffer untold damage and they are the backbone of this United Kingdom.

    We really do need more excellent articles like this fed into the mainstream and maybe even sent to the likes of Ummuna, Soubry, Cable and Morgan. It might be a good idea also to start questioning members of the Cabinet on their actual knowledge of the Single Market.

  • Ben

    Thanks. Yeah it took us 3 years to achieve regulatory equivalence when we first joined the EEC in 1973. You can read a full and significantly extended version of this article on my Brexit WordPress blog here:

  • Great Briton

    Great Article. Not sure why the Remoaners make it sound so difficult to leave the EU. I remember when we joined, there wasn’t endless agonising about all the problems it would cause. Even the introduction of VAT was accomplished without too many problems

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