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By Jonathan Isaby

Picture 10 The Bruges Group has just published a paper by Hugo van Randwyck which explores the idea of the UK leaving the European Union and rejoining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) – of which we were a member from 1960 until joining what was then the European Community in 1972 – whilst remaining inside the European Economic Area (EEA).

Van Randwyck claims that his proposal could create 1 million new jobs, see a 70% reduction in regulations the UK would have to implement which emanate from Europe, and take just "weeks" to implement. He stresses that the UK would have the benefits of the single market, but without the "political controls of the EU", covering such matters as Agriculture, Fisheries, Justice & Home Affairs and Foreign Policy.

Here's how he summarises the benefits of EFTA over the EU:

  • Financial i):  Switching from EU/EEA to EFTA/EEA means a reduction in financial contributions from £6 billion+ to around £3.9 billion a year. The EU contributions are expected to rise, whereas Norway, an EFTA/EEA member, has agreed a fixed annual contribution. This in effect, is a reduction in the ‘tariff’ the UK needs to pay for free movement of goods/services/capital and people.
  • Financial ii): Since Britain sends £15 billion to the EU and £9 billion is returned, and spent according to EU guidelines, this spending would now be determined by Westminster MPs. 
  • Employment: There would also be a reduction in regulations from 1000+ a year, to around 300 a year with EFTA. Reducing regulations is similar to a tax cut for businesses, so helping job creation. A move to employment rates at EFTA levels would result, providing sensible economic policies are also followed, in an additional 500,000 to 1 million jobs. 
  • Improved fishing and agriculture polices: fishing quotas/policies would be sensible to maximise the income of fishermen and maintain fish stocks, with a massive reduction in fish thrown away. Agriculture policies would similarly benefit from UK oriented policies. 
  • Re-implementing democracy: policies in other areas are designed and modified to suit UK citizens, and help to return respect for our political process. 
  • Lower taxes: with faster economic growth and rising employment, the government will receive more revenue from income tax, corporation tax etc. thus helping pay off the deficit. 
  • Reducing income gaps: help with reducing the gaps between high income and low income, allowing low income people the dignity of paying their way, with less need for benefits. 
  • Better MP performance: Other benefits not so obvious, include, since around 50% of regulations come from the EU, a 70% reduction would mean 85% of regulations originate in the UK, and that MPs in Westminster have more time to listen to voters here, and have less distractions and will be overruled by Brussels less. 
  • Quicker evaluation of policies and fixing: since more policy areas will be UK run, any problems can be quickly addressed and new ideas tried. 
  • Using what works/reducing duplication: no need to waste resources on a European Army, when there is already the UK Armed Forces and NATO. 
  • More integrity: EFTA accounts are signed off annually, so taxpayers have the assurance that their funds are being used transparently. 
  • Low staff costs: EFTA has only around 90 people on its payroll, which is significantly less than the 30,000+ of the EU. 
  • Releasing value and energy: by freeing organisations from central planning, the entrepreneurial spirit is released, so allowing better team working and performance, thus helping job creation. 
  • Liberty and pro-democracy: justice would be from UK legislation, without being overridden from other legal systems. Also, currently at general elections politicians can only speak for half the regulations that will be implemented, since the other half are made in Brussels – these overseas regulations would fall by 70% if we joined EFTA. You live in a democracy when you can: make, amend and repeal laws – switching to EFTA is a pro-democracy change.

To download the whole paper as a pdf, click here.

20 comments for: Bruges Group paper proposes that Britain leave the EU and join EFTA instead

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