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.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.
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.
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.