Friday 21 July 2017

Knowing me, knowing EU . . . now Britain must choose between the Canadian and Norwegian models

Boris Johnson – seen here walking across a car park by the Houses of Parliament in London
yesterday – should be on the next flight to Berlin. Photo: Getty Images
Boris Johnson – seen here walking across a car park by the Houses of Parliament in London yesterday – should be on the next flight to Berlin. Photo: Getty Images

James Kirkup

Of the questions Britain now faces, this matters most: what does leaving mean? The referendum may have dealt a shattering blow to the political consensus over the European Union, but even as the broken pieces fall, a fresh agreement is quietly being constructed to answer that question.

In the Conservative Party, both Leavers and Remainers are settling into an understanding that actually, leaving means keeping quite a lot of the EU. In the coming weeks, Conservative European ambitions will coalesce around a Brexit involving tariff-free access to the single market and immigration rules that still allow many EU workers to come to the UK freely.

Narrowly defined, the British parliament has the right to pass such a deal, but practically, permission must be sought from the people. The future of British politics is a choice - made either at an early election or, less likely, another referendum - between emulating Norway (which pays to get most of the single market and accepts a liberal immigration regime) or Canada (which has a limited bespoke EU trade deal and its own immigration rules).

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