Dynamite Poll Shows Overwhelming Support For Interim EEA Brexit Option

Brexit Plan

An explosive new poll has showed overwhelming support for a staged EFTA/EEA (Norway Option) Brexit approach in the event of a Leave vote in the EU referendum, extricating us from political union while maintaining the all-important short term economic stability. All serious Brexiteers must now coalesce around this plan

The Brexit blogosphere is reporting early warning of a new dynamite poll – far more interesting, I think, than the Independent poll showing Leave implausibly ahead by 10 points – which shows significant public support for Britain leaving the EU via a staged process maintaining access to the EEA (single market) in the same way as Norway.

The poll was commissioned by the Adam Smith Institute, who helped to shift the debate onto this ground by adopting the “Flexcit” plan developed by Dr. Richard North and readers of the eureferendum.com blog, promoting it in an essay “The Liberal Case For Leave” (authored by Roland Smith).

The purpose of the poll is quite clear – to show  that these is an as yet unmet public appetite for a staged approach to Brexit which extricates Britain from undemocratic and unwanted political union while also minimising risk.

As Tony Edwards of The Brexit Door blog reminds us:

Norway’s position is that it is in EFTA, and is a participant in the single market via the EEA agreement. It retains freedom of movement for workers, and enacts single market law (not all EU law, but about 25% of the total number of legislative measures in the EU acquis). It is not subject to the ECJ, or party to the CAP/CFP policies. It does not apply the common EU position on global bodies, it has sole competence for trade negotiations (despite making joint agreements with EFTA partners), and is not subject Justice of Home Affairs policies or collective foreign policy.

It has been the view of Flexcit advocates and The Leave Alliance that this is not only by far the most attractive approach in terms of allaying public fears and winning the referendum (without which any other differences between Brexiteers are rather academic), but that it is also the most practical and responsible way to extricate Britain from a complex political union at a minimum of risk. This poll would now seem to strongly vindicate that belief.

The key question posed by the poll was the following:

And thinking just about the shorter term, the five or ten years immediately following Britain leaving the EU, would you support or oppose Britain having a relationship like Norway has, allowing citizens of other EU countries to live and work in Britain in exchange for keeping full access to the single market?

And the headline results are overwhelmingly in favour of just such an approach:

ASI poll - EU Referendum - Adam Smith Institute - Chart

ASI poll - EU Referendum - Adam Smith Institute - Headline Results

This shows overall support for the interim EFTA/EEA (Norway) Option of 54 percent, against just 25 percent opposed, with 21 percent unsure. And among those currently intending to vote Remain, 79 percent are in favour of such a staged Brexit approach, while only 5 percent are opposed.

Ben Kelly of The Sceptic Isle blog breaks it down:

The YouGov poll, commissioned by the Adam Smith Institute, shows that British voters would overwhelmingly support the “Norway option” in the event of a vote to leave. Support for this arrangement outweighs opposition by two-to-one. This poll destroys the arguments of extremist Brexiteers and those stubborn remainers who believe a market based solution would be unacceptable to the public.


Reality is sinking in; if there is a vote to leave we will commence leaving political and judicial union but remain in the Single Market.

This is the one subject on which extremist Brexiteers and ardent remainers have agreed on. Both have made exactly the same dubious counter argument; that if the British government were to remain in the Single Market it would be un-democratic and the public would simply not accept it. They have long maintained that a “leave the European Union” vote must also mean leaving the Single Market. Both have regrettably attempted to frame this referendum as a vote on immigration which it clearly is not. Both make ridiculous assertions that the public will “revolt” against a market based solution.

We have said for some time that this was nonsense; that the economy is the number one concern and the public would support an economically safe exit. Now we have the data to prove it.

Since the Norway Option (and the incredibly thorough and detailed Brexit plan resting behind it) have become more prominent in the national debate, its opponents – Remainers and a stubborn but vocal subset of Brexiteers – have been doing everything in their power to mock, discredit and otherwise slander the plan.

The Remainers’ motivation is obvious – if it can be shown that Britain can leave the unloved political union of the EU while maintaining full access to the single market, nearly all of their apocalyptic fearmongering arguments about economic ruin are immediately blown apart, leaving the Remain campaign entirely without a case.

(Even now, some Remainers are attempting to cause mischief and cast doubt on the interim EFTA/EEA route wherever they can – because Britain’s continued participation in the single market is the Achilles heel of their case for Britain to stay locked in political union.)

The Norway Option’s opponents among Brexiteers tend to be the ignorant (including those who do not understand that it is an interim step designed to ensure economic stability while 40 years of political union are unpicked) and those who want to campaign on a platform of vastly slashing immigration and doing it yesterday, even if it means losing the referendum because moderate voters recoil.

However, this new poll suggests that the interim EFTA/EEA approach to Brexit is an idea whose time has come. With so much garbage being spewed by the official campaigns on both sides of the debate, more and more people are turning in desperation to alternative news sources and alternative scenarios not being discussed by Boris Johnson or the establishment pin-ups of the Remain campaign.

With less than two weeks to go until Referendum Day, we are finally arriving at a consensus – and we have done so despite, rather than because of the official Vote Leave campaign which has been barking about immigration and the NHS to the extent that people are tuning it out.

There is a hunger out there for somebody to present a more grown-up plan for Brexit, one which acknowledges political realities and constraints that even low-information voters perceive to exist. And now we have that plan. What’s more, as the ASI/YouGov poll shows, when the outline of the plan is explained to voters they respond very favourably.

This poll is dynamite. It shows that the scaremongering, falsehoods and outright dismissals poured on the Norway Option by Remainers and short-sighted Brexiteers have had no effect. It shows that a majority of Britons are sensible enough to realise that undoing 40 years’ worth of political integration with the EU may not be advisable to attempt in one short sharp burst, and that a plan which gets us out of the political union (and free from any future attempts at further integration) while maintaining economic stability – the top issue for voters – is potentially very popular.

The only ones who now do not accept this are the blinkered leaders of the official Leave campaign. But the EFTA/EEA route has momentum now – it will not go away just because its existence is inconvenient for Boris Johnson or the other big names of Vote Leave.

At last, Britain is starting to coalesce around a politically viable (and physically deliberable) Brexit plan. The single

This is no time for triumphalism, as Tony Edwards warns (his emphasis):

For those who have seen the polls of the last week and think that Leave has this referendum in the bag, I suggest a moment of reflection. Even if they are correct, there is every chance that the government will be able to scare people in the coming days, that there will be a resurgence for Remain. Polls are never the whole story.

But polls can help to suggest to us in broad strokes what we think the public will accept, and we should begin by offering that option to them, explicitly and clearly, before the Referendum. When the margins are as large as the ones that You Gov have reported in this particular survey, I think it is safe to say that the Staged Brexit approach via EEA/EFTA, is the only option that is likely to receive sufficient support in the country and in Parliament to be able to bring together the opposing sides if we vote to leave.

But with many moderates still undecided as to how they vote, there are clearly a significant number of Britons who may be very receptive to this new information. And hopefully the Adam Smith Institute / YouGov poll will inspire more influential pro-Brexit voices to begin making that pitch to voters.

We could yet win this thing.


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Worried Remainers Are Now Desperately Attacking The Norway Option For A Reason

European Union - EEA - EFTA

By openly slandering the EFTA/EEA “Norway Option” for achieving Brexit in the event of a Leave vote, the Remain campaign and their allies in the media show that they are terrified of this sensible approach

The Guardian is, of course, desperate for Britain to remain in the European Union. The vast majority of those who read or write for the paper simply cannot conceive why tiny, pathetic, insignificant Britain would want to walk away from an EU which is basically all about puppies, daisies, hand-holding, Saving The Earth and “co-operation”.

As such, the Guardian is desperate to trash any and all Brexit plans which have a whiff of viability and sense about them – and now they are gunning for the interim EFTA/EEA or “Norway” option, just as it starts to be seized upon by an increasing number of influencers and ordinary people tired by the amateur, haphazard campaigning of Vote Leave.

The Guardian’s strategy – to slander the interim EFTA/EEA option as some kind of betrayal of democracy, and to lump it together with other parliamentary tricks MPs might choose to spitefully play in the event of a Leave vote.

The article begins portentously:

Pro-European MPs and some government sources believe it may be possible to use the Commons to mount a guerilla campaign to minimise the impact of a referendum vote to quit the European Union – or even to reverse the decision if the negotiations with the EU on the UK’s exit terms produce a disastrous deal.

The government is not willing to discuss its reaction in the event of a vote to leave since its sole goal at this stage in the campaign is to emphasise the risk of such a vote by saying that the decision would be irreversible and would likely be met with a brutal response from Britain’s European partners, primarily the French.

But privately ministers have pointed out there is a large cross-party Commons majority for the UK’s continued membership of the EU, and it could be deployed once the hugely complex, detailed and contentious legislation necessary to leave the EU started to pass through parliament.

All of which would be shocking if the Guardian had actually uncovered evidence of a plot by MPs to nullify or ignore the result of the referendum. But this isn’t what they mean at all. What they mean is the following:

The first target is likely to be whether the UK could remain in the single market, while leaving the EU – so joining the European Economic Area, of which the non-EU countries Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland are currently members. The single market guarantees the free movement of people, goods and services inside the EU.

The Guardian is trying to portray an eminently sensible – in fact, by far the most sensible – plan to leave the political construct called the European Union as some kind of grotesque subversion of the people’s will – which is pretty rich in itself, considering the contempt bordering on hatred felt by most Guardianistas toward those sympathetic to Brexit.

But let’s remind ourselves of the actual question on the ballot paper on 23 June:

EU Referendum Ballot Paper

That’s right – there is nothing on the paper whatsoever about the European Economic Area or “single market”. A vote to leave the EU is a vote for Britain to do exactly that – to leave an explicitly political, ever-tightening union of European countries all embarked on a journey to one day become a common state (as the EU’s founders and current leaders happily admit).

Many people are rightly now coming to the conclusion that the best way to achieve Brexit with the minimum of political and economic disruption is to exit to an “off the shelf” interim solution which already exists in the form of the EFTA/EEA membership enjoyed by Norway. This is why David Cameron has suddenly started talking about “a vote to leave the single market” over the past few days – it is a tacit admission that if we vote to leave the EU but remain in the EEA, every single one of the Remain campaign’s arguments are instantly negated.

Hence the ardently Remain-supporting Guardian’s desire to do everything possible to slander the interim EFTA/EEA option, painting it as some kind of unconscionable scam when in fact it is an utterly pragmatic and realistic way of leaving the European Union while completely avoiding all of the apocalyptic economic scenarios which the Remain camp love to throw around.

And now, other newspapers are joining in. From the Times’ daily Red Box email briefing:

The Times splashes on warnings that pro-Europe MPs will fight a rearguard battle to stop Britain leaving the single market even after a Brexit vote. With fewer than 200 of the 650 MPs in parliament in favour of leaving the EU, a series of votes could be staged to put pressure on the government to keep Britain inside the single market.

Undemocratic? Of course. Plausible? Absolutely.

Except, as we have seen, it is not “undemocratic” at all. The British people are being asked whether or not they wish to leave the European Union. By gosh, we spent long enough obsessing over the wording of the question. And Brexit to a position where we continue to maintain our access to the single market in the short to medium term while planning more beneficial arrangements for the future is well within the scope of a Leave vote.

It is a surprise to see the Times engaged in the same grubby dark arts as the Guardian in this case. And even more surprising to see the Daily Mail follow suit:

Pro-Remain MPs are plotting to ignore the will of the people by voting to keep Britain in the single market – even if the referendum results in a Brexit victory.

This would mean continued freedom of movement and would ignore public concern about mass migration.

Anti-Brexit MPs on all benches – Tory, Labour, Lib Dem and SNP – could use their overwhelming majority in the Commons to force a Norway-style relationship with the EU.

Out campaigners warned last night that such a move would spark a ‘constitutional crisis’ as it would counter the spirit of a pro-Brexit referendum.

But MPs on the Remain side said such a move – dubbed guerrilla tactics by one source – would be justified because the Leave side have not set out the nature of Britain’s trading relationship with the EU if we left.

Again, we see this short-termist, Brexit-as-an-event rather than the more realistic Brexit-as-a-process viewpoint needlessly closing the mind of the Daily Mail to an eminently pragmatic option.

Certainly immigration is a key issue in the debate – and indeed as a non-EU EEA country, Britain would have a more effective emergency brake than that secured by David Cameron in his pathetic renegotiation. But more importantly, once safely and securely outside of the EU’s political union, Britain could begin planning, negotiating and building support for a better longer-term solution. And we would have our democracy back, to boot.

The “out campaigners” mentioned by the Daily Mail as calling the Norway Option the catalyst for a constitutional crisis are no doubt the same Vote Leave luvvies and insiders who made the calamitous, strategic error of going into the referendum campaign without a Brexit plan of their own, drawing a huge amount of damaging fire from the Remain campaign in the process. They are clearly desperate to slander and diminish any plan which is not cooked up in their own laboratory, perhaps under the auspices of their resident mad scientist Patrick Minford.

The Guardian article continues, quoting Sam Bowman of the ASI:

Sam Bowman, the executive director of the rightwing thinktank the Adam Smith Institute, which has advocated the UK leaving the EU in stages, welcomed the possible intervention in the Commons.. He said: “This is a referendum on EU membership, not the single market, and MPs would be right to keep us in the single market if we vote to leave the EU. Keeping Britain in the single market would take the main economic risks out of leaving the EU, avoiding the doomsday scenarios outlined by the Treasury and others.

“The EEA option outlined in a recent Adam Smith Institute report would give the UK economic security while allowing it to leave the EU. In many respects it gives us the best of both worlds – indeed the remain side has emphasised little else of value about the EU during the campaign apart from the single market.

“The EU is not a prison, but the remain camp risks portraying it as such. It is possible to leave without risking serious economic harm, and staying in the single market as a step towards a long-term settlement would give the UK that safe route out.”

While it is heartening to see the Guardian suddenly discover Roland Smith’s paper “The Liberal Case for Leave” (and the comprehensive Flexcit plan on which it is based), it is entirely unsurprising that they choose to portray it in a negative light, choosing to lump it together with what they accuse of being undemocratic ways of de facto remaining in the EU.

Some of the other acts of democratic and national self-sabotage mentioned by the Guardian as being mooted by government and MPs are indeed more concerning:

David Cameron has said in the event of a vote to leave, he would immediately and formally notify the EU of its intention to quit under article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, kickstarting a two-year negotiation that could only be extended beyond the two years by a unanimous vote of the EU member states.

But lawyers advising the expert UK parliamentary committees dealing with Europe say there is no legal obligation to notify the EU immediately.

Michael Gove, the justice secretary and prominent leave campaigner, said: “Logically, in the days after a vote to leave, the prime minister would discuss the way ahead with the cabinet and consult parliament before taking any significant step.”

He added: “It would not be in any nation’s interest artificially to accelerate the process and no responsible government would hit the start button on a two-year legal process without preparing appropriately. Nor would it be in anyone’s interest to hurry parliamentary processes. We can set the pace.”

There is no need to push the button on Article 50 the day after the referendum in the event of a Leave vote. In fact, such a decision would be a spiteful and churlish act committed by an irresponsible government willing to damage the long-term interest of the country as “pay back” to the people for having disregarded their advice to vote Remain.

Similarly with the idea of a counter-offer from the EU followed by a second referendum in the event of a Leave vote, raising the possibility that Britain might end up in a kind of democratic limbo, having voted to leave the EU but rejected the subsequent terms of departure.

Messing around with either the invocation of Article 50 or the sneaky addition of a second referendum would indeed be undemocratic, or at least a wild act of constitutional vandalism. Adopting the only comprehensive Brexit plan in existence – and as we learned on Newsnight yesterday evening, the plan being actively considered by civil servants, who must obey the laws of reality, not partisan allegiance – does not fall into this category.

Failing to give the UKIP-element of the Leave campaign everything they want wrapped up with a pretty bow on 24 June is not evidence of some sinister plot or an attempt to subvert a democratically made decision to leave the EU. On the contrary, pursuing the Norway Option is the responsible way forward, the best means of securing precisely what the British people voted for – independence from the Brussels political union, and the freedom to make all subsequent decisions democratically for ourselves, including on immigration (within the constraints of realpolitik).

(And for newspapers which usually treat Brexit supporters with dripping contempt verging on hatred to suddenly care whether the Norway Option goes against the “spirit” of a Brexit vote – it doesn’t – is disingenuous at best. A child could see through their attempt at emotional manipulation.)

So we should beware the motivations of those campaigners and newspapers who suggest otherwise. In seeking to tarnish the only comprehensive Brexit plan in existence (Flexcit / the Norway Option) such people clearly have an agenda – once which brings together unlikely allies like the Times and the Guardian, and which sees the Daily Mail also taking up arms for different reasons.

Thinking Brexiteers whose first priority is extricating Britain from the common European state being slowly but relentlessly assembled in Brussels should ask themselves why so many people – from the prime minister on downwards – are suddenly so desperate to conflate the single market with the European Union, and to trash the Norway Option.

Hint: it is because without being able to threaten all manner of apocalyptic scenarios in the event of Britain leaving the single market, the entire Remain campaign – in all its negative, pessimistic, fearmongering glory – utterly falls apart.

These people are desperate to halt the growing public awareness that it is possible to disengage from political and judicial union in a manner that is reasonable, non-hostile, pragmatic and politically feasible without the risk of economic disruption.

Because that might mean actually leaving the EU!


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