EFTA could be the best solution in order to win #indyref2
Joining EFTA may be the best tactical solution for persuading the majority of Scots to back independence in a post EU Referendum world.
The reason for this is that joining EFTA gives us most of the key advantages of staying in the EU but it also resolves some of the key post brexit arguments that will be used against the independence movement.
Before going into the pro EFTA case I would like to acknowledge the obvious objection that many independence supporters might raise.
Scotland voted to stay in the EU and therefore joining EFTA might be seen as a rejection of the will of the Scottish people. I think this is a fair point.
This article is really trying to set out what the most practical solution might be for those who support independence. It may not be the perfect solution but it is pragmatic. Post Brexit things are really messy and it is hard to envision a future that everyone will agree is ideal.
There are several problems facing the arguments put forth by the independence movement that joining EFTA would resolve. The first is that by focusing on joining EFTA we may be able to offer clarity to the Scottish people in terms of what they would be voting for before a second referendum took place.
We know from our experience in 2014 that the EU will only speak to actual sovereign states. Therefore, we will not be able to negotiate with them until we are independent. The UK could negotiate for us but that is not going to happen.
So, just like in 2014, those supporting the union will be able to sow the seeds of doubt in the minds of voters as to whether the EU will allow an independent Scotland to join or not. Even if we are allowed to join there will always be the threat of a period where we are in limbo, out of the EU while applying to get back in.
Our job should be to eliminate as much doubt as possible as undecided voters crave certainty.
EFTA is a smaller organisation than the EU, comprised of similar sized countries, with similar aspirations to Scotland. Diplomatically, it will be easier to speak to the EFTA countries and have them state in advance that an independent Scotland would be able to join. If through diplomacy we could get some positive mood music from the EFTA countries before a referendum we would have a much stronger case to take to the people of Scotland.
The beauty of joining EFTA is that it is a far less of a bureaucratic organisation than the EU, with fewer barriers to entry. A country wanting to join only needs to agree to be party to the existing EFTA free trade deals and the rest is just politics. The only stumbling block is getting the existing members to agree that we can join. It will be a lot easier to get Norway and Iceland to help Scottish independence than Spain and rUK.
A second problem resolved by joining EFTA is that of the pro indy Brexiteers.
Since the EU referendum a lot of no voters have moved to yes but they have been balanced out by yes voters moving to no. I call the latter group the pro indy Brexiteers. They believe that Scotland is more powerful post Brexit. They argue that control over farming and fishing will now default back to Scotland due to those issues not being reserved to Westminster. They are now conflicted as a yes vote forcing them to rejoin the EU would mean those powers will go back to Brussels.
EFTA would persuade many of them to vote yes because it means their Brexit vote would not be wasted. Control over farming and fishing would be in Scotland’s hands if we go down the EFTA route.
Thirdly, EFTA resolves problems around trade.
Joining should secure access to the European Economic Area, which means we would not lose access to the single market. EEA states need to agree to allow us to join but the process is less complicated than joining via the EU.
EFTA countries also have many international trade agreements, most notably with Canada, a country that the EU recently failed to secure a trade deal with.
Keeping access to the single market would be especially advantageous if the rest of the UK were to leave it. Scotland would become a very tempting destination for many businesses currently based in the south.
EFTA also allows countries to sign their own trade agreements with other nations which would be key to counter the most repeated pro union argument I hear at the moment – the notion that the UK is Scotland’s biggest trading partner and that leaving the UK for the EU would hurt trade.
Joining EFTA means that regardless of what RUK chooses to do, we will be able to keep the UK single market going by negotiating our own deal as EFTA allows that freedom. As we have discussed before, the threat of there being trade barriers erected between Scotland and the UK was always slim, but if we join EFTA, we have a stronger case for averting the worst case scenario.
EFTA has lower fees than the EU, it has fewer regulations, and it also allows us more control over our legal system. We would be free to choose our own currency and not have to pretend to join the Euro at some point. Also we would have no commitment to join the Shengen travel area which was another bone of contention in 2014. Some might argue another benefit is that we would not be committed to any EU military endeavours.
On the negative side, we would lose the money we currently get back by being a member of the EU, for instance payments to farmers and the fishing industry.
It would be up to the Scottish Government to decide to fund certain industries and projects. We would not have as much say on rules affecting the European free market as EFTA countries don’t get to vote on them. Although, there are mechanism for EFTA countries to influence the debate.
A major problem might be potential passport control at the border between Scotland and England. That said, Theresa May has already confirmed that this would not be an issue between Ireland and Northern Ireland so those fears may be unjustified.
All in all, while no solution is going to be perfect, I believe if we want to win a second indyref, then EFTA is the best option. Joining would be easier than joining the EU, it will help energise yes voters we have lost over their stance on the EU, and it will give us most of the benefits of being in the EU while depriving our opponents of debating fuel.
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Interesting post, thanks. One point to make is that ‘vanilla EFTA’, i.e. No EEA or Swiss bilaterals, simply has free trade in goods with the EU and no Free Movement with it. If an EFTA member Scotland wanted to get access to the rest of the Single Market it would have to join Schengen, and that would likely be unacceptable to rUK. Of course, it’s conceivable that Scotland might be able to secure an opt-out, but just look at how much trouble Switzerland – a larger, richer country – is having with that!
Hi Chris. From the official EFTA webpage, It says the following.
‘Schengen is not a part of the EEA Agreement. However, all of the four EFTA States participate in Schengen and Dublin through bilateral agreements and they all apply the provisions of the relevant Acquis.’.
Signing up to Dublin would make sense but there is not much point being in Schengen as an island nation so I imagine there won’t be too much pressure to agree. Might be naive though.
I stand corrected, cheers! Clearly I need to learn more about how exactly EFTA and Schengen are related; the EU don’t seem to want to let Switzerland out of Schengen though! Iceland is about as isolated an island as it gets but it still participates in Schengen; how willingly, I don’t know. When all is said and done I expect the UK’s Brexit goal will be to become a member of EFTA with a renegotiated EEA Agreement giving EFTA States access to the Single Market and some kind of joint decision-making powers with the EU. It might even be able… Read more »
I imagine the UK goal will be to stay in the single market. I presume that is what they told Nissan to get them to stay in Sunderland. The plan may be EFTA but I would seriously doubt that the EFTA countries would let the UK in. It would make the group too unbalanced as the UK is too big an economy. I don’t know what is going to happen. I said a while ago that I thought the most likely scenario would be that the government would collapse as I can’t see a solution that isn’t going to alienate… Read more »
Current EFTA members seem very keen on the idea of their founder member rejoining: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/iceland-says-it-would-welcome-uk-into-european-free-trade-association-post-brexit-1587272 Britain is a major trading partner for each of the three big EFTA states, and they may hope that having a big country might allow them to renegotiate the EEA. The EEA was only supposed to be an interim stage before full membership: Sweden and Finland completed that journey, Norway got stuck half-way. The Swiss system of continually updating bilateral agreements to reflect current laws has become unworkable. Now, if EFTA states are dissatisfied with rule-taking and rule-matching then the only remaining possibility is rule-shaping.… Read more »
I would say EFTA would be a good idea for the UK but I don’t see how a solution that includes free movement of people is going to satisfy those who voted for Brexit. Some of the key proponents of Brexit will also be in charge of negotiations. So, while I think it’s a good idea I don’t see it working politically. Also, Norway have been sending mixed messages on the UK joining. I can’t see all EFTA nations agreeing to let such a big country join. EFTA would actually be good if it went hand in hand with political… Read more »
I am in agreement with your last two paras…
With regard to “SNP/Heathrow” I think Nicola is trying to get more long-term jobs at Prestwick. It doesn’t appear to be financially viable at the moment and the only other option currently floating around appears to be a spaceport which I would like located at Macrahanish…!
Yeh, this is the most likely scenario. Good luck with getting your spaceport.
I think we may have to agree to disagree on the desirability to Brexiteers of EFTA FoM (I have often heard the lament that the EU should have been kept to a club of comparably wealthy countries); the likelihood of Norway wanting to keep one of its main trading partners close; Heathrow; and the likelihood of an elite deciding to overturn an anti-elite and anti-status quo vote (70% of MPs may well be anti-Brexit, but about the same proportion of constituencies voted to Leave). I agree that England could do with drastic constitutional change though. My own outlandish proposal is… Read more »
If you use the 8 EU regions for your English devolved administrations you get a reasonable population balanced. Greater London 8196700 West Midlands Region 5608600 West of England 5824100 Yorkshire Region 5692700 The North 5664900 Western South East 5510400 East of England 5767500 Westcountry 5955900 Eastern South East 533700 Not sure what you capitals would be. My geography is rubbish. I’m not totally against an unelected 2nd house as long as the way you get into it isn’t corrupt. I could abide a house of true experts from various fields of academia, business and industry. A senate is probably less… Read more »
Hmm, for me an unelected second chamber is a no-no. Democracy should be representative, but on the basis that Lords are appointed for being crazy brilliant then by definition that is going to be one unrepresentative chamber. Also they’re likely to be crazy brilliant at one thing in particular, whereas politics needs more balanced interests. If you’re working out how to distribute a government science R&D budget then it may be a very good idea to consult Stephen Hawking; but appoint him a Lord in a second chamber and he’d end up also voting on agricultural subsidies. Surely there are… Read more »
You would find that a lot of people who support Scottish independence would agree with you. It’s not really about splitting up the UK it’s about getting a more representative system of government, which in turn should lead to a fairer more settled society. If the UK were to bite the bullet and reform I think it would kill independence dead. In that the more moderate support for independence would dry up. In the past, on this very site I have promoted federalism as the answer. I have become slowly disheartened by the notion though. I don’t think there is… Read more »
I like the idea of an extension to the jury-service practice. I think it would be much better done at sub-regional level rather than federal level though. Firstly, I’m uncomfortable with randoms sitting in a parliament with the ability to declare war. Secondly, the more localised the selection the more cohesive the agenda is likely to be — you wouldn’t get stuck with a Fraserburgh fisherman, Hoxton facial-hair stylist and Glastonbury druid trying to agree on priorities. Thirdly, I fear the media would be fascinated by the idea of Everyman suddenly vaulting to political power, and the higher profile the… Read more »