There was an article in the Spectator late last week, authored by Dan Hannan, regarding what Brexit looks like as he sees it. I was excited – this is usually a topic the Eurosceptics run a mile from. And the piece was truly revealing.
Hannan says that those campaigning for Britain to remain in the EU are being hysterical because we are basing our predictions of Brexit on a false premise. He says that if we left the EU we’d very obviously remain part of the EEA and the single market and so any suggestion that this wouldn’t happen in the event of Brexit is scaremongering. On this, I have to admit that Hannan has a point: if the choice on offer is between remaining in the EU as a full member and leaving the EU but staying in the EEA (the Norway model without Shengen in other words), then all talk of meltdown is a bit silly. Being in the EEA only would have real downsides I would argue: less control over the direction of EU travel, for instance, and we’d still have to abide by the rules of the game without being to shape them. But I agree with Hannan that, yes, meltdown of any description would be extremely unlikely. A lot of the major downsides that come with Brexit – such as the fate of the Common Travel Area to name but one – would evaporate under a deal that kept us in the EEA.
One of the chief ways life in Britain would remain completely the same if we left the EU but stayed inside the EEA was one that Dan interestingly didn’t touch upon at all. It’s a big one too. Immigration. Because what Hannan didn’t bother to tell anyone in his Spectator article is that remaining in the EEA would mean that the rules around freedom of movement would remain exactly the same. As in they wouldn’t result in the same thing by different means, but rather the immigration rules would remain precisely as they are now. So if the Leave groups want to argue this whole thing over the topic of immigration, then saying that staying in the EEA is the plan as far as they are concerned – in fact, the Pros such as myself claiming that any other possibility is live counts as hysteria – then negates completely the whole immigration argument.
That’s good for many reasons, so I’m not complaining. But it would help this whole debate greatly if the Outs could just come to a consensus on what “Out” actually means: Norway or some sort of never before seen WTO deal outside the single market, a step into the great unknown? But I should probably just calm down, as Dan suggests. I could be being hysterical.