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Irexit or… EFTA or… whatever he’s having himself… July 19, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Ray Bassett pops up in the SBP this last weekend full of praise for the work he did on his report on Irexit for Policy Exchange. No, seriously, he’s chuffed with it. I’ve cast an eye over that here already and can’t say I’m as impressed, and I find Bassett’s latest charge about the EU industry and those who criticise the report and the idea of Irexit being essentially in hock to the EU financially a bit much. If that characterised all the criticism and critique of his stance there might be some substance in it… but the reality is that the range of those disagreeing with him goes a long long way further than the usual suspects of the credulous pro-EU crew.

There’s more too. He now argues Ireland should ‘consider a Norway (EFTA) style free trade arrangement with the EU, continuing with free movement of capital, goods services and people while at the same time retaining the bulk off our current links with Britain’.

The problem is that – and note his vagueness over said ‘current links’ – that doesn’t really address the Brexit challenges at all. Since the UK wouldn’t be in EFTA there would still be a de facto EU ‘border’ between this state and the UK, whether we’re in EFTA or an EFTA style arrangement. That would mean precisely the same concerns in respect of a ‘hard’ border, the same requirements for regulations etc.

Indeed all that effectively happens is that the RoI detaches itself from its previous membership of the EU but with no material gain. Perhaps that’s the point of the exercise from his perspective, perhaps he sees that as merely a way to the full exit.

And notable is the fact that he does not argue for the UK to join EEA/EFTA which would be arguably one of the only ways to ameliorate the problems. Indeed he seems implicitly to expect a hard Brexit on their part .

And there’s another curious aspect of this. Consult the Policy Exchange report and one will find not a direct mention of this idea of an EFTA style arrangement. The closest he comes to it, without even mentioning EFTA or EEA (the former isn’t mentioned once, the latter only in passing) is the following:

There is little understanding in Ireland that duty free access to the Single Market can, and indeed has been, negotiated for a number of countries outside the EU, including Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Switzerland. In addition, Canada through the CETA free trade agreement will now enjoy tariff free access for 98% of its exports to the EU.

It’s difficult to know what to make of this. Is he raising this as a new idea that supersedes the Policy Exchange report? Or is he tailoring his message to different audiences, with the PE document for UK consumption and this latest SPB suggestion for Irish audiences.

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