Mrs May’s speech – key points

On the 2nd of March 2018 Prime Minister Theresa May made another speech about Brexit and our future relationship with the European Union.

To be honest, there was little in the speech that was new or original, but there were a few sections we would like to highlight. 

She said:

“Others have suggested we negotiate a free trade agreement similar to that which Canada has recently negotiated with the EU – or trade on World Trade Organisation terms.

But these options would mean a significant reduction in our access to each other’s markets compared to that which we currently enjoy. And this would mean customs and regulatory checks at the border that would damage the integrated supply chains that our industries depend on and be inconsistent with the commitments that both we and the EU have made in respect of Northern Ireland.”

On these points, Mrs May  is correct. Neither a CETA or a WTO option Brexit would be good for the UK; as we discuss here

Mrs May is also insisting that we leave the Single Market, despite admitting some of the problems that would cause:

“I want to be straight with people – because the reality is that we all need to face up to some hard facts.

We are leaving the single market. Life is going to be different. In certain ways, our access to each other’s markets will be less than it is now.”

This admission is markedly different from her comments in March 2017 in which she said that we would “trade freely into the European Single Market…the same benefits in terms of that free access to trade”

So if Mrs May knows there are going to be significant downsides to the WTO option and Canadian (CETA) option why is she so insistent that we must not pursue the Iceland/Norway/Liechtenstein EFTA/EEA option?

She said in the speech:

“In my speech in Florence, I set out why the existing models for economic partnership either do not deliver the ambition we need or impose unsustainable constraints on our democracy.

For example, the Norway model, where we would stay in the single market, would mean having to implement new EU legislation automatically and in its entirety – and would also mean continued free movement.”

These statements are embarrassingly false to say the least. 

As we have discussed in previous blogs and reports, the EFTA/EEA countries do indeed have a large say in the rules they abide by, and exemptions from most of the contentious EU policies

We have also described how the UK could indeed regulate EU/EEA migration better as a member of EFTA/EEA.

We would like to ask the Prime Minister a simple question – how is the statement “the Norway model, where we would stay in the single market, would mean having to implement new EU legislation automatically and in its entirety” compatible with the fact that EFTA/EEA states like Norway are indisputably exempt from the following EU policy areas?:

  • Common agriculture and fisheries policies [CAP, CFP]
  • Customs Union;
  • CCP common trade policy;
  • CFSP common foreign and security policy;
  • Justice and home affairs;
  • Direct and indirect taxation;
  • EMU economic and monetary union.

To summarize the speech thus far then, we have:

  1. the Prime Minister admitting the WTO and CETA approaches aren’t suitable for the UK .
  2. the Prime Minister demonstrating a misunderstanding of how the ‘Norway option’ works and dismissing it as an option due to those misapprehensions.
  3. The PM expressing her desire for some new bespoke deal.

So what of a bespoke new deal? The Prime Minister admits in her speech that:

“The Commission has suggested that the only option available to the UK is an ‘off the shelf’ model.”

– this isn’t a new development. Monsieur Barnier has been saying this for a long, long time

We suggest then, that the Prime Minister re-evaluates the Iceland/Norway model before her next speech, and applies to rejoin the European Free Trade Association [EFTA] as soon as possible.