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Why the ‘Norway Option’ Presents a False Choice for Brexit Britain

by John Brian Shannon

If there was one thing that unified the 17.4 million Britons who voted to Leave the European Union, it was to end freedom of movement between the UK and the EU, as the utter failure of the EU’s Schengen Agreement means that anyone from anywhere can simply walk across an EU border and can’t be deported under EU law.

These days, the bloc doesn’t even police much of the EU’s perimeter, whether on land or sea. People arrive from anywhere; They are given a landed immigrant card that entitles them to the same rights, privileges and freedoms as any EU citizen — which includes eligibility for free healthcare, social welfare programmes and social housing. And in recent months, rioting refugees and economic migrants have agitated for employment guarantees and it looks like they may win that right. Which is a right that not even native EU citizens enjoy. (Just to show you how nutty it can become in the EU)

Therefore, for some UK MP’s to suggest that the so-called ‘Norway Option’ is a viable way to honour the instructions of The People, they are sadly mistaken. In no way can continued free movement of persons from a bloc with zero control over its borders form part of the legitimate remit of British MP’s who work for the good of the country and its citizens.

Signing up to a worse deal than the UK has now is a non-starter. Signing up to a worse deal than Theresa May’s draft Withdrawal Agreement is also a non-starter. The so-called ‘Norway Option’ just isn’t an option for the UK and no amount of spin is going to walk back the primary demand of 17.4 million British voters.

As baseball umpires say; Steeeerrrike One!

Onward to Strike Two:

Another reason that anyone who believes in democracy and sovereignty shouldn’t be pushing the Norway Option is that another primary demand of 17.4 million British voters was to end the jurisdiction of the European court and Norway remains under the jurisdiction of the ECJ on many matters — especially on trade related matters.

British MP’s should know better than to peddle this shambolic plan that continues to allow freedom of movement and ECJ jurisdiction over trade, some healthcare, and other social issues.

The ECJ is a fine institution in and of itself, and that is recognized around the world. No issues there. However, it’s an EU institution and by definition it must rule in the EU’s favour — as it isn’t named the Chinese Court of Justice, the Australian Court of Justice, nor is it called by any other name. It’s an EU-centric organization and everyone realizes and respects that. It’s a court that’s in business for the EU — not Norway, not for post-Brexit Britain and not Japan — for three more examples.

Again, signing up to a deal that’s a worse deal than the UK presently has with the EU just isn’t an option.

For now, as long as the UK remains within the EU, the UK has a small amount of ‘pull’ with the ECJ as the UK is a dues-paying member of the EU for the time being — but after Brexit the UK won’t have any say into how the ECJ operates, nor will it be allowed to offer unsolicited legal opinions to the European court

Umpire, please make the call: Steeeerrrike Two!

On to Strike Three!

BASEBALL ANNOUNCER: “Alright everybody, get ready. The Norway Option is down two strikes and the last and final pitch is imminent here at the bottom of the ninth inning. Let’s see what happens… and no matter which way it goes folks, it’s going to be a blockbuster.”

Ask any Norwegian what they think of the Norway Option. That’s it. I win!

And the Umpire calls: Steeeerrrike Three!

BASEBALL ANNOUNCER: “It’s ‘Game Over’ for the Norway Option team!”

Post-Game Commentary

Yes, folks. It’s just that easy. Because there is hardly to be found anywhere in Norway anyone who would agree that their present deal with the EU is a good deal.

Business owners there like it because it grants them access to the huge EU market. But it’s a costly access and there are millions of regulations that must be strictly adhered-to which drives up costs for those businesses.

But the vast majority of Norwegians aren’t business owners surrounded by mountains of regulatory paperwork to keep them well-insulated during the harsh Norwegian winter.

Most are people who appreciate the EU for what it is, but don’t like masses of homeless refugees and immigrants sleeping in the streets and panhandling (such things were never before seen in Norway!) and making their contribution to other crimes — and increasingly nowadays — organized crime rings led by recent immigrants from North Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

In a country of only 5 million citizens, Norway has enjoyed one of the world’s lowest crime rates. Indeed, most years go by without one (not even one!) murder per year. Historically, Norway has astonishingly low rates of rape and other sexual assault, and the lowest rate of property crimes in the world. However, since freedom of movement was foisted on Norway via their arm’s-length EU contract these things have almost become commonplace.

The beautiful Norwegian people and the pristine countryside have been befouled by relatively large numbers of low-level criminals and Norwegian business has been curtailed by the high cost of accessing the EU Single Market.

It’s like getting nicely dressed for an outing to a prestigious art gallery and paying good money to see the Mona Lisa or Group of Seven painting and then getting spit-on by a refugee hiding behind the artwork. (That’s how I imagine Norwegians feel about their à la carte deal with the EU)

I won’t even start on the loss of sovereignty in other ways, nor will I discuss other high costs that Norway and Norwegian consumers must bear as part of their country’s deal with the European Union.

But let’s end this discussion without prejudice to the EU, which, aside from the problems noted above, has become a great asset to our world and leads the world community of nations in many ways.

It’s just that at present, with unrestricted immigration and the high costs of exporting into the EU’s Single Market, combined with loss of sovereignty as an EU member or arm’s length member, it’s not the best deal, nor is it the only game in town. Yet, let us continue to respect old Europa for all the positive things she’s accomplished.

BASEBALL ANNOUNCER: “Okay folks, that’s a wrap. It was an easy win here today at the ol’ ball game; Come back next week when Canada+++ goes up against the ‘No Deal’ Brexit team from Britain’s ERG. Goodnight everybody!”

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Time to Begin Planning for Life After Brexit

by John Brian Shannon

It looks like the so-called ‘Project Fear’ campaign has failed in its quest to force referendum after referendum until they got the answer they wanted (which to observers, seemed they wanted to stay in the European Union at any cost) and that Brexit will occur on March 30, 2019 as planned.

All that remains to be decided between the UK and the EU is whether future relations will be based on World Trade Organisation rules, or on a bilateral trade agreement that allows both sides to prosper while maintaining a reasonable level of protection for national sovereignty, for their respective economies, and is able to shelter startups or other businesses that may require some form of special treatment or protection.

Either UK and EU leaders are up to the task, or they’re not. We’ll soon know.

And if they aren’t up to the task, every one of them deserves to get the boot at the next election.

First on the Agenda for the UK

Of paramount importance for the UK are free trade agreements with its Commonwealth partners — agreements that automatically come into effect within 24 hours of the official Brexit date.

It’s important to begin with Commonwealth trading partners because if Commonwealth nations aren’t willing to sign bilateral trade agreements with the UK, why would other countries want trade deals with the UK?

(If I represented a non-Commonwealth country and the UK couldn’t get its act together enough to sign worthwhile free trade agreements with its own Commonwealth partners, I wouldn’t be interested in signing with the UK either)

Yesterday, Australia’s Prime Minister generously indicated his country will sign a bilateral trade agreement to automatically come into effect the day after Brexit, and New Zealand, Canada, India, and other Commonwealth nations have indicated they’re open to bilateral trade agreements with the UK too.

Therefore, it isn’t a reach to suggest that such agreements be ready for a signing ceremony the day after Brexit and that UK foreign direct investment (FDI) in those countries will thenceforth take an instant leap forward.

The time to get such negotiations done is NOW so that a simultaneous signing ceremony can be televised across each of the Commonwealth’s 53 capital cities at 00:01 (in the UK timezone) on March 30, 2019.

What a tribute to enduring relations between Commonwealth members. Such a historic moment!

Second on the Agenda for the UK

No later than 24-hours after Brexit (which puts us at March 31, 2019) the UK should have free trade agreements automatically coming into effect with every economy in the world — agreements that work for each country just as well as they work for the UK.

‘Win-Lose’ thinking is no longer an option in the 21st century and anything less than ‘Win-Win’ isn’t worth spit. In fact, unless trade agreements are ‘Win-Win-Win’ these days, their value is questionable.


If the UK offers a ‘Win-Win’ trade agreement to China, but Japan offers a ‘Win-Win-Win’ trade agreement to China; Which of the two countries will be China’s most favoured trading partner?

Obviously, Japan’s offer would win, and the UK offer would simply gather dust as Japan’s relationship with China surged forward.

These negotiations must occur NOW and be led with a high level of urgency by Prime Minister Theresa May and Secretary of State for International Trade Dr. Liam Fox, so that by April 1, 2019 the UK will have bilateral trade deals with every country in the world — that automatically come into effect the day after the official Brexit date.

Anything less than that stellar achievement should be considered by UK voters to be a mediocre performance by the (then) ruling party in the UK House of Commons.

The world wants UK goods and services right now, and especially in the post Brexit era.

The world wants quality UK goods and services both now and in the post Brexit era.

Leaning toward ‘Soft Brexit’?

by John Brian Shannon

Now that Brexit is beginning to sink-in for Britons and for UK politicians entrusted to carry out the will of ‘The People’ it seems that a so-called ‘Hard Brexit’ might be orders of magnitude more difficult than first imagined, while a so-called ‘Soft Brexit’ might be preferable to all parties, which appears to be an elegant solution at the point where the people’s interests intersect with the UK economy.

Because Philip Hammond’s economy is doing well considering everything that’s happened since 2008, PM Theresa May can relax about the economy and get on with her part of running the United Kingdom — namely, the political arrangements for a Soft Brexit now (let’s call that Brexit Stage I) and possibly a Hard Brexit later (let’s call that Brexit Stage II) if that part is approved by voters in the next UK election on May 7, 2020.

Soft Brexit vs. Hard Brexit. Image courtesy of J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

Soft Brexit vs. Hard Brexit. Image courtesy of J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

Soft Brexit probably equals mild uncertainty in the markets, while Hard Brexit might cause economic chaos

Since 1973 when Britain joined the European Community and it’s various and later governmental structures, the policies in all member nations have largely been set by common agreements forged with those organizations. There are literally hundreds of thousands of laws and regulations to replace in a post-Brexit UK. It will be a humongous task.

Even Greenland, with its total population of 56,196 took three years to exit the European Union. The UK with it’s $2.8 trillion (GDP) advanced economy has hundreds of thousands of EU laws, trade laws, tariff controls, manufacturing standards and immigration rules, that guide industry, the UK government, and Britons — all of which might take 5-10 years to replace with UK-centric legislation. Industry simply can’t function without proper regulations which leaves only one choice for many organizations; Leave Britain. That’s not in the best interests of Britons, the government, nor of UK industry itself.

A brilliant plan, is one that allows the UK to rejoin the EEA and the EFTA (as in the Norway or Swiss model) and it’s actually doable.

Have you seen Norwegian or Swiss economies? Let’s just say that on a per capita basis, they beat every European economy every year.

And, sure, some commenters will try to make things more complicated than they really are. But it isn’t complicated unless you desire it to be that.

With proper stewardship the UK economy can perform as well as any non-EU-member-nation noted in the links below. Check out their world-leading per capita income and low unemployment rates!

Norway Economic Outlook
Switzerland Economic Outlook

If Switzerland and Norway (for two examples) can have EEA and/or EFTA membership, and bilateral agreements with the EU, and booming economies — there’s no reason the UK can’t.

It’s not rocket science. Brexit does NOT mean the end of trade with the EU. That would cause long-term recession in the EU (likely leading to its dissolution) and a long-term case of the economic doldrums for the UK. The two blocs need each other whether some like it or not. So, get on with it!

UK Prime Minister Theresa May needs to stop everything(!) and get warm approval for EFTA membership accession from all four EFTA member nations.

Not to mention appointing a Minister for Scotland (a ‘Scot’) a Minister for Northern Ireland (a ‘Northern Irelander’) and a Minister for Wales (a Welsh resident) to shore-up relationships with the UK’s devolved regions, and also appoint a Minister for England.

And gain approval for Brexit among the remaining 27 EU member nations which must unanimously approve Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Accomplishing all of that would be five-years’ worth of dedicated work for any British Prime Minister! Even former Prime Minister extraordinaire Sir Winston Churchill, might’ve found a challenge in that.

UK Conservatives (with significant help from UKIP) have gained a mandate for Soft Brexit but I don’t think 52% is enough of a mandate for Hard Brexit. Which is why I support ‘Soft Brexit’ for now — and if approved by voters at the next election — ‘Hard Brexit’.

In the meantime, there’s an unimaginable amount of work left to secure a stable, fair, and expeditious Soft Brexit that solves some of the deficiencies of Britain’s EU membership, while leaving only free movement of labour and persons, and certain trade matters to negotiate, if it ever comes to Stage II Brexit.

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