There appear to be (at least) two contrasting visions of a post BrExit relationship with the EU. One (which appears to be favoured by UKIP leadership – reiterated by Nigel Farage on Channel 4 News on 22nd Feb 2016 – and related groups) postulates a global free trading nirvana outside the EU Single Market. This rejection of the EU Single Market has been endorsed by Boris Johnson, Nigel Lawson and other non-UKIP Leave advocates. Most commentators (including the “Flexcit” roadmap) reject this as economically damaging, though doubtless has a simple vision for those seeking a superficially attractive solution. Nonetheless, at present the majority of the public (and in the media) seeking to leave the EU wish to do so because of their desire to control immigration from the EU and their desire to restore sovereignty. If these are the primary motivators for BrExit then they are prepared to sacrifice the benefits of the EU single market.
The favoured alternative seems to be settling on a variant of the “Norway” scenario (or as Dan Hannan MEP now appears to prefer, the “Iceland” scenario). This would include maintaining freedom of movement (which won’t satisfy the many who want to control EU immigration), a subscription little smaller than the current net contribution (so peanuts in savings, which won’t satisfy those looking to save money), and the EU continues to set lots of rules and regulations (which doesn’t restore much in the way of sovereignty). On the plus side we get our places back at non-existent “top tables” in international bodies that we never lost in the first place.
The public have a right to ask “why bother?”. We will have gone through five years of self-indulgent re-negotiations of our already special place in the EU at a time when we and the EU had plenty of other concerns to deal with, only to get a deal that doesn’t solve the core complaints, creates a set of new problems, and with less influence regionally and geo-strategically. This really is a “ho-hum” outcome that risks the breakup of the whole of the UK for little, if any, advantage. If, as some in Leave assert, this is just a “staging post” to full BrExit, then they are saying we have another 10 years or so of further disruptive and self-indulgent renegotiations to achieve an end that many will question why we bothered and with uncertain outcome. Furthermore, they assume the EU will continue to indulge Britain’s behaviour. Far more likely, they’ll say “you made your bed, now lie in it”. As the government makes clear after a Leave vote, the path to exit is long, complex and risky with uncertain outcome. Indeed, the “Flexcit” roadmap from Vote Leave agrees with this.
Below is a more detailed exploration of the issues: