Friday, 7 December 2018

Jo Johnson: a liar like his brother


Jo Johnson today asserts that the UK in the EEA would become a rule taker and have to take up the role of a lobbyist camped outside in Brussels. Like his brother, he has shown an impressive capacity to lie.

Certainly the UK would have less direct involvement but that is not to say that EEA states are not consulted and even at the adoption stage, laws are configured for the specific member. That is the whole point of the EEA system architecture. It is far from automatic adoption.

As to becoming a lobbyist, this overlooks that we already are a lobbyist in the EU because we still have to push hard for the agreement of other member states when the oppose the UK agenda. In respect of that we would still have an active diplomatic corps working in Brussels.

On things like technical regulation what matters is the level of expertise you bring to the table and the UK's input would be considerable. They UK would still be able to shape the rules it adopts. And importantly, it's 73% fewer rules than being an EU member.

A non-member can have an impact in a policy area if it prioritizes, and explains its domestic constraints. If the UK picks its battles well there is every reason to expect cooperation from the EU - and the EU can be held to its own legal and political declarations.

Norway’s experience shows outsiders can influence the EU particularly in policy sectors where it is a ‘super power’ – such as oil/gas, but often such influence depends on successfully aligning with the interests of key member states.

This is where it is best to argue in line with what is best for Europe and the EU, not on the need for special exceptions. That is what gives Norway a respected voice inside the EU. We would still enjoy more economic clout than most EU members.

Too much emphasis is placed on us not having a vote, but votes are only a bit part of the process and rules don;t even go to a vote unless there is a consensus - and would not do so with major objections from the UK. Especially if the UK threatens non adoption.

The political processes in the EEA have been reduced to crass reductions such as the "rule taker" myth - but the process is considerably more involved and if EEA states really were passive rule takers Norway would have left by now.

This is where we see dishonesty in equal measure from both leave and remain inclined think tanks. They lie through their teeth about the EEA option in ways that would make even Boris Johnson blush.

It should also be noted that of the rules we do adopt, most of them are built on global conventions and international standards and so the UK is trading EU level influence for an enhanced say at the top tables. Cutting out the middleman. (The EU itself is a "rule taker").

The EEA will sometimes mean adopting rules we don't want but it's a case of win some, lose some, where we concede on some issues to build political capital for those occasions where we would set red lines. This is not too different to how it works as members.

The myth that we would be waiting by the fax machine to be told what to do is a lie as old as the EEA itself - invented by Norwegian europhiles with a view to bounding Norway into full EU membership. It was a lie then and it's a lie now.

We should also note that the EEA acquis is primarily technical governance and seldom anything worth going to the barricades over. This is a small price to pay for continued preferential participation in our largest market. As an equitable compromise there is no better.

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