Now that the European Union Referendum has been decided, it is important that the UK Parliament take the lead in guiding the future direction of our relationship with our European friends and neighbours. The referendum was simply a question as to whether or not the UK should remain a member of the European Union ("EU"); we were not voting on the manifestos of the different campaigns. The result was very close, and therefore I believe it is incumbent on our elected representatives to propose a post-EU relationship that meets the needs of the largest proportion of the population and creates the least disruption possible to our economy.
In my opinion, this can best be achieved by the United Kingdom re-joining the European Free Trade Association ("EFTA") and retaining membership of the European Economic Area ("EEA"). This would have the following ten key benefits:
No disruption to the UK's existing trading relationships in both goods and services in Europe;
- No reduction in the social and employment protections that we already enjoy;
- Regained control over our agricultural and fishing policies;
- The ability to make trade agreements outside of the EU/EFTA with whoever we choose, in particular with our friends in the Commonwealth;
- Sovereignty over all matters that are of real concern to people, but with the benefits of working to common standards on internal EEA trade and regional issues such as climate change and pollution;
- Eliminating most of the issues that may cause problems with the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland;
- Largely satisfying the concerns of the people of London and Scotland in terms of their continuing connections with Europe for their vital financial services industries;
- No engagement in EU monetary union, common foreign and security policies, and common justice and home affairs policies;
- Outside the EU customs union and VAT common area, so the UK can set our own VAT and tariff rates for non EEA goods; and
- Continued free movement of workers and students, but the ability to apply "breaks" to numbers if public services are put under pressure.
I believe this addresses the economic concerns of those from the "Remain" side of the recent referendum and the Sovereignty concerns of those of the "Leave" camp. It also ensures that the UK remains an open and outward looking nation and does not alienate our many friends around the world. Norway, the largest current EFTA/EEA member has one of the highest standards of living and quality of life in the world, is a close NATO ally and a leading participator in many international bodies, so I see no reason why the UK's economic and diplomatic position should be inhibited in any way.
No solution is perfect, but of all those available that respect the democratic will of the UK electorate that was expressed on Thursday, I believe that this would find favour with the largest element of the population.
If you agree with me, please copy the above text and send it to your MP; this is now a matter that will be decided by the UK Parliament. I have also started a petition to help spread the message that there is a compromise solution available to us: