Theresa May is ready to get the Britain out of the single market if the UK is not given full control of its borders.
In the referendum of 23 June 2016, 51.9% of UK voters opted to leave the EU. ‘Article 50 of TEU’, if activated, will begin the process of withdrawal: expected by the end of March. Amid this, Westminster is divided by debates of uncertainty: firstly, conservatives’ immutable stance on immigration is in conflict with Holyrood’s interests; secondly, UK’s access to EU’s single market—in the pursuance of current stance—looks unreal. The question is who will compromise? Will Scotland, that voted for the remain in the EU campaign, give up its stance on the free movement of people? Or will Theresa May compromise the will of the voters?
Although Nicola Sturgeon has ruled out staging another independence referendum in the next 12 months, but she is still persistent on Scottish-Brexit demands. Because migration and access to EU’s single market are integral parts of the Scottish economy, therefore, it is obvious that the Holyrood will keep pressurizing the Westminster. A recent call of Holyrood MP on devolved immigration—endorsed by the parliament—evidently suggests that a compromise from the Scottish side undoable.
In contrast, Theresa May is ready to get the Britain out of the single market if the UK is not given full control of its borders. Theresa May is ready to honor the choice of UK’s voters at the cost of economic disability. However, she also is not ready to lose Scotland, which makes this a hard choice to make. Since losing Scotland is not an option, compromise on May’s side is predictable. Nevertheless, what options does the UK have to get access to the single market? Both, in the case of the UK, are allowing free movement and retaining it.
There are 22 trade agreements between the EU and individual countries, and 5 multilateral agreements, covering multiple countries. Statistics show that UK’s needs are higher and are economically more vulnerable than EU after Brexit. Therefore, the interruption of a current trading partnership will be inimical to the UK, but EU has to comply with its laws. Thus, it is crucial to see what options are available to the UK.
The European Economic Area (EEA)
The ‘EEA’ is an integrated body of countries (Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway) that are not members of the European Union but have access to the EU’s single market. The ‘EEA’ states are a part of ‘European Free Trade Area’, which also includes other non-EU member countries. The ‘EEA’ agreement has sectorial reach: imposing the EU internal market law, includes fundamental freedoms (the free movement of goods, capital services, and persons) and competitions. ‘EEA’ excludes areas, such as common agricultural policy, common Fishery policy, customs union, etc. However, in return for access to the single market of the 28 EU members, the ‘EEA’ states pay a contribution to the EU’s budget, accepts some EU laws, and allows the free movement of people. Since the Conservatives are too rigid on the immigration issue, Boris Johnson, criticizing EU for legally affecting the UK, this option seems to be unacceptable.
The Swiss Model
The other option that seems to be around is the swiss Model. Switzerland, the EFTA member, has numerous bilateral treaties with EU, giving it access to EU’s market. EU-Swiss relations are associated with two packages of treaties: the first package has seven agreements and the second nine. These packages give’s Switzerland access to various areas of the single market. However, the agreements do require the free movement of people and the implementation of EU regulations. Although Switzerland contributes billions of dollars to the EU project, still its bilateral agreements with EU are in danger due to the 2014 Swiss referendum: that applied quotas to immigration from the EU. The European commission clearly stated that there can be no further agreement until the former issue is solved. UK’s vote to leave has complicated talks between EU and Switzerland over free movement because any EU compromise over free movement would fuel similar demands from Britain. Amid this, Switzerland is, therefore, the best model for considering how EU law can affect a European state which does not wish to enter into a wide-ranging omnibus regime or one characterized by strong collective institutions.
The Brussel Models
The other options are states without extensive bilateral treaty relations, which can be called as the Brussel models. EU law has global reach because of its biggest market; In order to export to EU states it, of course, possible for other countries to trade with EU without free movement of people, but EU law may still have effects as a consequence of EU’s market power. Currently, the Turkey model seems a viable option for the UK. Turkey has custom union with EU, which means it faces no tariffs or quotas on industrial good it sends to EU countries. But still, EU regulations apply and Turkey has no say on tariffs: impose on goods that it imports from non-EU countries.
Apart from Turkey, EU regulations extend to all trading countries. According to Bradford, (The Brussel Effects (2012) 107 Northwestern University Law review 1.) “EU regulations have a tangible impact on the everyday lives of citizens around the world. Few Americans are aware that EU regulations determine the makeup they apply in the morning, the cereal they eat for breakfast, the software they use on their computer, and the privacy settings they adjust on their Facebook page.”
Although it is possible for the UK to make a different deal from the above mentioned, but the pattern suggests that immigration will be almost attached to every agreement and EU regulations will still apply.