Tuesday, 28 June 2016

A possible way forward for our divided country

Here's my humble suggestion for a possible way forward for our rather bruised and divided country post-referendum: With the tory brexiters apparently rowing back (at least a bit) from the pre-referendum anti-immigrant rhetoric (and the, admittedly remote, possibility that the tories might not even be in power in a few months) it seems very possible that we could end up with the so-called 'Norway Option' - membership of the European Economic Area (EEA), which is basically the single market, without full membership of the EU. Rather than agitating for a 2nd referendum or for the government to simply ignore the referendum result - which will only lead to further division and bitterness - perhaps the best thing would be for those who voted remain and those who voted leave (apart from those whose leave vote was purely motivated by anti-immigrant feeling which - Jeremy Kyle-esque news interviews with white van drivers in pie and mash shops notwithstanding - is undoubtedly nowhere near all of them) to push for EEA membership as a compromise. Remain voters would surely be pleased that we would get to retain the EU's 'four freedoms' (freedom of movement of goods, services, capital and people) - at least to the same extent that the remaining 27 EU member states do - and those on both sides of the divide with concerns about sovereignty or the so-called 'democratic deficit' would surely be pleased by the fact that the UK would no longer be under the direct jurisdiction of Brussels. True, we would no longer have a vote in the Council of Ministers and we would have no MEPs, but we would undoubtedly still have a pretty significant influence over EU policy due to the size of our population and (once it gets back on its feet) our economy. Those who are obsessed with keeping immigrants out of the UK would not be happy but, considering the leave vote was only 52%, such people are without doubt only a minority of the electorate. I would, therefore, argue that the referendum result does not have to be interpreted as a mandate to reject freedom of movement.

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