The Bow Group, the UK’s oldest conservative thinktank has published its alternative arrangements for leaving the European Union, under the title “Leaving means leaving”, by an arranged withdrawal from the European Economic Area. This article is based on the Prime Minister’s speech following the declaration of Article 50 (2) of the Lisbon Treaty and outlines how Brexit can be delivered.
On 23 June 2016, the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. That decision was no rejection of the values we share as fellow Europeans. Nor was it an attempt to do harm to the European Union or any of the remaining member states. On the contrary, the United Kingdom wants the European Union to succeed and prosper. Instead, the referendum was a vote to restore, as we see it, our national self-determination. We are leaving the European Economic Area, but we are not leaving Europe – and we want to remain committed partners and allies to our friends across the continent.
In 2017, the United Kingdom Parliament confirmed the result of the referendum by voting with clear and convincing majorities in both of its Houses for the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill. The Bill was passed by Parliament and it received Royal Assent from Her Majesty The Queen.
Today two years later without withdrawal under Article 50 (2) agreed, the Bow Group publishes its plan for a “managed no deal” which requires the Government to notify contracting parties under Article 127 of the EEA Agreement of the UK’s withdrawal from the Agreement. It requires a ‘contracting party’ (of which the UK is one) wishing to leave the EEA to provide at least 12 months’ notification of withdrawal, in order to give the remaining parties time to modify the Agreement.
In addition, building on the draft Withdrawal Agreement under Article 50 (2), seeking to maintain a deep and special partnership with the EEA, the UK should notify the EEA Council of the United Kingdom’s willingness to delay withdrawal up until the 31 st December 2020, subject to a successful mutual application to the World Trade Organisation under the provisions of Article 24 of GATT. The UK would meet its outstanding obligations to the EEA in full through our contribution to the existing EU MFF.
This letter sets out an approach for Her Majesty’s Government to the discussions which will have to be had about the United Kingdom’s departure from the EEA and about the deep and special partnership we hope to enjoy – as their closest friend and neighbour – with the contracting parties once we leave. We believe that these objectives are in the interests not only of the United Kingdom but of the EEA and the wider world too.
It is in the best interests of both the United Kingdom and the contracting parties that we should use the forthcoming process to deliver these objectives in a fair and orderly manner, and with as little disruption as possible on each side. We want to make sure that Europe remains strong and prosperous and is capable of projecting its values, leading in the world, and defending itself from security threats. We want the United Kingdom, through a new deep and special partnership with EEA members, to play its full part in achieving these goals.
We encourage Government and other partners to approach such discussions with ambition, giving citizens and businesses in the United Kingdom and the European Union – and indeed from third countries around the world – as much certainty as possible, as early as possible. We would like to propose some principles that may help to shape our coming discussions.
The process in the United Kingdom
The Government has enacted legislation that will repeal the Act of Parliament – the European Communities Act 1972 – that gives effect to EU law in our country. The UK is legislated to leave the EU on the 29 th March. We continue to fulfil our responsibilities as a member state while we remain a member of the European Union, and any agreement we agree will not come into effect until we leave.
From the start and throughout the discussions, we have negotiated as one United Kingdom, taking due account of the specific interests of every nation and region of the UK as we do so. When it comes to the return of powers back to the United Kingdom, we have consulted on which powers should reside in Westminster and which should be devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But it remains the expectation of the Government that the outcome of this process will be a significant increase in the decision-making power of each devolved administration.
Negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Economic Area
The United Kingdom Government would want to agree with the EEA a deep and special partnership that takes in economic cooperation. To achieve this, we believe it is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the EEA. If we will leave the EEA without any agreement the default position is that we would have to trade on World Trade Organisation terms. In this kind of scenario, both the United Kingdom and the EEA would of course cope with the change, but it is not the outcome that either side should seek. We must therefore work hard to avoid that outcome.
It is for these reasons that we want to be able to agree a deep and special partnership, taking in both economic and security cooperation, but it is also because we want to play our part in making sure that Europe remains strong and prosperous and able to lead in the world, projecting its values and defending itself from security threats. And we want the United Kingdom to play its full part in realising that vision for our continent.
Proposed principles for a diplomatic conference
Looking ahead to the discussions which we will soon begin under Article 127, I would like to suggest some principles that we might agree to help make sure that the process is as smooth and successful as possible. We believe:
i. We should engage with one another constructively and respectfully, in a spirit of sincere cooperation
ii. We should always put our citizens first
iii. We should work towards securing a comprehensive agreement
iv. We should work together to minimise disruption and give as much certainty as possible
v. We should begin technical talks on detailed policy areas as soon as possible, but we should prioritise the biggest challenges.
vi. We should continue to work together to advance and protect our shared European values
The Task Before Us
At a time when the growth of global trade is slowing and there are signs that protectionist instincts are on the rise in many parts of the world, Europe has a responsibility to stand up for free trade in the interest of all our citizens. Weakening our cooperation for the prosperity and protection of our citizens would be a costly mistake. The United Kingdom’s objectives for our future partnership remain those set out in the Prime Minister’s Lancaster House speech of 17th January 2017.
We recognise that it will be a challenge to reach such a comprehensive agreement beyond the period set out for withdrawal discussions in the Treaty. But we believe it is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the EEA. We start from a unique position in these discussions – close regulatory alignment, trust in one another’s institutions, and a spirit of cooperation stretching back decades. It is for these reasons, and because the future partnership between the UK and the EEA is of such importance to both sides, that we are sure it can be agreed in the time period set out by the Treaty.
The task before us is momentous but it should not be beyond us. After all, the institutions and the leaders of the European Union have succeeded in bringing together a continent blighted by war into a union of peaceful nations, and supported the transition of dictatorships to democracy. We can reach an agreement about the UK’s rights and obligations as a departing member state, while establishing a deep and special partnership that contributes towards the prosperity of our continent.
Mr. Jonathan Stanley MRCS(Eng)
Senior Research Fellow, Bow Group
Cllr. Ben Harris-Quinney FSRA
Chairman, Bow Group
For further enquiries please contact Jonathan Stanley on 07814 034 874