January 17, 2019


There is a better Brexit deal out there. It means accepting freedom of movement: It would take just days to construct a political declaration that dropped the UK's red line and, instead, pointed towards staying in the single market.  (JONATHAN PORTES, 1/17/19, New Statesman)

In other words, voting for and signing this deal - including this version of the political declaration - is a mandate from parliament to leave the single market and to introduce major new barriers to trade, in both goods and services, between the EU27 and the UK. And every credible independent analysis shows that this will result in significant economic damage to the UK (and indeed to a lesser extent the EU27). There is no getting around the fact that this is the implication of the deal on the table - and to the credit of government economists, they have said precisely this.

But Barnier's point is also clear. That this is our choice, not that of the EU. We are choosing to leave the single market - we are not being kicked out of it - because of the red lines that the Prime Minister has chosen. Foremost among those is, of course, her determination to end free movement. As if to emphasise that this is our choice, not the EU's, the political declaration says: "The United Kingdom has decided that the principle of free movement of persons between the Union and the United Kingdom will no longer apply" - the only passage in the document where it makes clear one side has made a specific choice. 

So is there an alternative political declaration that the EU would accept and that would point towards a radically different future relationship - a very different Brexit? Absolutely. It would take officials just a few days to construct a political declaration that dropped the UK red line on freedom of movement and, instead, pointed towards a UK that remained, de facto or de jure, within the single market, with freedom of movement continuing - although perhaps with some new modifications or controls, of the sort that already exist for non-EU participants in the single market. Whether this would look like "Norway", "Switzerland", or, more likely, some specifically British solution would take years of negotiation to work out - but the direction of travel would be very clear and very different from that implied by the current deal. And so would the destination.

Would this really be a "better" Brexit? Economically, there is little doubt. 

Economics is where national sovereignty inevitably breaks down, because enforcement of rules across national boundaries requires submission to an external/transnational authority. Unless, of course, you take the optimal course and simply remove all your own barriers to the free movement of goods and people and ignore what your trading partners do. 

Posted by at January 17, 2019 12:43 PM