May's road to nowhere, and the EFTA route to Brexit

Instead of paying £39bn to be stuck in a BRINO-Brexit, EFTA offers the best form of transition as we leave the EU. We urgently need to re-evaluate the EFTA route to a meaningful and practicable Brexit

EFTA may be the best bet
Dr. Peter Hill
On 17 January 2019 13:08

As Theresa May pleaded for MPs to unite behind her it was heartening to see them heeding her suggestion and doing just that – the House of Commons overwhelming united to shoot down her terrible ‘Brexit deal’.

That deal had all the smell of a stitch-up, giving the EU everything it wanted and surrendering almost every red line May had claimed was immovable.

The EU was able to dictate a deal it knew would be rejected, and no sooner had it been rejected, lo and behold, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, was there suggesting that perhaps the UK could just stay in the EU. Who didn’t see that coming?

With dreary predictability, the usual voices have again been raised to promote the idea of a “People’s vote”. But who exactly was it that voted in 2016 at the Referendum, and in the General Election soon after?

They were both people’s votes and, taken together, were overwhelmingly in favour of Brexit -- the referendum was won by a margin of 52-48, and over 80 percent of the electorate then backed parties committed to leaving the EU in a general election.

A further vote would prolong the uncertainty which May’s weak leadership of Brexit has created.

Across the country, businesses are still no clearer on what our trade relationship will be in less than 80 days, and the pound continues to be volatile. Holidaymakers are holding off booking holidays, and international students are avoiding the UK. We need stability while at the same time honouring the result of the Referendum.

On the 23rd of June, 2017, I was very kindly invited to a Parliament Street debate at King’s College London called “Brexit: One Year On”.

In the course of the debate, as the lone Brexiteer on the panel, I acknowledged the challenges of delivering Brexit, especially in a way that is acceptable to most, and really is deliverable. At the time, I said that joining EFTA – the European Free Trade Association -- would do just that.

What was true then is true now. We need stability, we need a system of trade which works ‘off the shelf’, and we need to honour the Referendum result.

Most important of all, the UK could choose to leave EFTA at a time of its choosing. Instead of paying £39bn to be stuck in a BRINO-Brexit, EFTA offers the best form of transition as we leave the EU.

Now that May’s deal has been completely destroyed in Parliament, and she has survived a Vote of Confidence, it is time to look again at EFTA membership.

Cllr Dr Peter Hill is a Unitary Authority and Parish Councillor in Bracknell Forest, and a Senior Lecturer in Strategic Management at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham

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