Monday 24 November 2014

Owen Paterson On EU Exit

It says something of Cameron's lack of political judgement that his cabinet reshuffle in July as a token gesture to promoting women removed Owen Paterson from collective cabinet responsibility which had kept him largely silent. Now removed from such responsibility Paterson is now able to express his views much to the discomfort of Cameron.

A long time criticism of UKIP is that they do not, despite 20 years in existence, have a credible plan to exit the EU. A criticism which they still fail to address. The very same accusation of course can be leveled at David Cameron. He reiterates if he can't get the reforms he wants he will campaign for exit.

However not only are Cameron's many promises of renegotiating our membership by his 2017 referendum promise unworkable -  and cannot be delivered in time even if they were - like Nigel Farage Cameron does not have a workable roadmap for EU exit in the event of inevitable failure. On a hook he very much is.

Enter Owen Paterson who today gave a speech on the UK's relationship with the EU. The essential content of his speech, which will be very familiar to regular readers of EUreferendum - with the conclusion that "Cameron should cut to the chase and commit to invoking Article 50 the moment a Conservative government takes office after the election (page 16).
Once the decision to invoke Article 50 has been made, agreement should be concluded as rapidly as possible. But speedy negotiations impose certain constraints. We should remember that the Swiss bilateral agreements with the EU took 16 years to negotiate. The much-vaunted EU - South Korea FTA took almost 18 years to come to fruition – in the form of a 1,336 - page trading agreement. 31 We need, therefore, to pick a proven, off - the - shelf plan.

However, our participation in the Single Market is fundamental to protecting the UK's economic position. This brings us to the only realistic option, which is to stay within the EEA agreement. The EEA is tailor made for this purpose and can be adopted by joining EFTA first. This becomes the "Norway option". We have already seen that Norway has more influence in international decision - making than we do as an EU Member State. Using the EEA ensures full access to the Single Market and provides immediate cover for leaving the political arrangements of the EU. To ensure continuity and avoid any disruption to the Single Market, would also repatriate the entire Acquis and make it domestic law, giving us time to conduct a full review in good order.
With an electoral mandate at a general election, there is no need for a referendum to invoke Article 50, but instead have one after exit negotiations have been concluded. 

Using the Norway option / Flexcit as a 'stepping stone out' any referendum would then be a straight choice between the deal done or re-applying to join the EU which would include joining the Eurozone minus also all the lost opt outs involved in previous Treaty negotiations. As a consequence the status quo effect would then very significantly shift to the "outers". This strategy would be similar to our entry in the early '70s but for obviously opposite intentions.

Of course it's unlikely that Cameron will adopt Paterson's arguments, although it's not unknown for Cameron to change his mind on EU matters. The key point though is we now have a major politician discussing Article 50 and the Norway option publicly in a way which has rarely, if at all, been done before. That in itself is huge progress.

Paterson's arguments are also a way of allowing Cameron to remove himself from the hook on which he's impaled himself. Article 50 has the two year clause which fits in neatly with a promise of a 2017 referendum, Cameron's desire to repatriate powers and Cameron's to remove the UK from "ever closer Union.

Whether Cameron listens is another matter - we obviously remain sceptical, but the debate regarding Article 50 and Norway is now out in the wider public domain. And that is progress, no wonder the Europhile Mats Persson looked miserable on the BBC's Daily Politics show (10:40 mins in)


  1. "they still fail to adequately address."

    Typo. Should read...

    "they still fail to address."

  2. It was a little irritating to see so much of the DP programme wasted on a wild goose chase know-nothings discourse on immigration that was already guaranteed to follow already well-worn pathways and then sideline Paterson's intervention as an annexe to it.

    Then leaving him out in the cold while the talking studio heads discussed what they wanted to understand from it without any real appreciation of what was being suggested or the background behind it. However, Dominic Grieve seemed to be carefully tiptoeing around any requirement to understand what was being said and I think his stance showed he will be uncomfortable in publically acknowledging the legitimacy behind the Norway option.

    Certainly the emergence of a new (in the BBC's terms) branch of the debate seemed completely lost on Coburn.

  3. Interesting how quickly the Graun and the Telegraph buried the story. The only hint of it on the Telegraph front page now is an anti-Brexit rant from Alex Proud.

    1. The Telegraph buried it under a stupid headline.

    2. The Telegraph's position laid bare...

  4. "Whether Cameron listens is another matter" - If he listens he will ignore it because it is not what he wants. He has made clear his intention is to keep us in no matter what

  5. I think he should listen, it nicely gets him off the hook for his renegotiation and referendum in 2017. Baically his renegotiation is the terms of the EFTA/EEA option, and low and behold he had managed to "negotiate a new deal for the UK and its relationship with europe" - all before the 2017 referendum and with out needing a treaty change. EXACTLY what he has promised.

    1. Yes...yes. It corners Cameron nicely.

      Paterson's alternative gives Cameron exactly what he claims he wants. If Cameron doesn't heed the advice he is only going to look foolish in 2017 by failing to "renegotiate" successfully which increases our chances of leaving.

      It's better for him politically to leave the EU on his terms (rather than be "bumped" into it anyway). But then he's always been a poor politician so I guess he will ignore Paterson's advice.

    2. Very true BF, he is in the same league as the bloke from life of Brian who would have been set free to live on an island somewhere, then says "nah, just kidding, crucifixion really". Only Laughable as Camerons thinking often is, sadly because of its effect, it just is not funny at times.

  6. Paterson’s interjection is a useful addition to broadening the debate. However, in my view it would be seen as suicidal by any mainstream party to enter a general election with a manifesto promise to invoke Article 50 upon forming a government. As things are currently presented, it would place in the hands of voters an option far too risky and finite to ever commit to.

    These unfortunate circumstances are completely unnecessary and avoidable - as a more careful reading of Article 50 elucidates. These is nothing whatsoever within the article which demands a State must leave the Union upon (and as a consequence of) invoking it. Any claim to this outcome is made up and cannot be substantiated by the article’s wording.

    In fact, when placed within the bounds of the Vienna Convention - which the Lisbon Treaty is legally circumscribed by - there are unambiguous and very succinctly-stated provisions for a State to rescind an invoked withdrawal article - for whatever its reasons and at whatever time - before its outcome takes legal effect.

    Had Paterson understood this (and had his council been wiser), he could have placed before the public - and his party - today a slightly different… safe and risk-free, mechanism for withdrawal which voters would find compelling at the ballot box of the general election.

    The mechanism which seeks to invoke Article 50 upon taking government BUT which clarifies to the public that this act commits the UK to nothing beyond negotiating an agreement with the EU which can then be accepted or rejected in a later referendum. Should the electorate reject the agreement, the UK has the automatic legal right to revoke the article and business carries on as usual.