One year on from the referendum, is there a case for the UK staying in the European Economic Area?
YES – Alasdair Smith, professor of economics at the University of Sussex.
The European Single Market applies the same regulatory rules across the EU. Cars can be built in the UK using parts from all over the EU and then sold in other EU markets. British food can be sold in France and Germany while UK supermarkets are supplied with fresh fruit and vegetables from Spain. A clean break from the Single Market would be difficult for all the industries which currently rely on us having the same regulatory rules as the EU, including the service industries which are the greater part of the UK economy. Even if we managed to negotiate a tariff-free agreement with the EU in time for Brexit, there would be major economic disruption. Staying in the Single Market through European Economic Area (EEA) membership, at least long enough to negotiate a new long term economic relationship with the EU, is the only way to ensure that Brexit does not impose heavy costs on British workers and British consumers.
NO – Diane James, independent MEP
EEA membership is effectively a form of EU membership lite. The people of Britain voted in June 2016 on a clear EU membership question – Leave or Remain. The vote outcome was definitively Leave. The main issues that determined the result of the referendum were UK control over immigration, legal primacy of UK courts, and the UK’s desire to go global and cut its own trade deals. EEA membership will prevent all of these.
It would necessitate freedom of movement to almost the same degree as the current EU immigration policy. The EFTA court, that oversees the EEA, tends to follow the lead of the European Court of Justice, making the EEA member states effectively legally subordinate to the EU. Finally, various regulatory rules of origin issues would make it difficult for the UK to agree comprehensive free trade agreements with other non-EU countries. The UK voted to leave the EU, and that is what the UK should do. It should be a clean break thus ruling out membership of the EEA as any form of alternative.