The Norway model is Britain’s only hope

by Ella Mason

I am bereaved.

The referendum result has knocked me for six. I have always been determinedly pro-Europe. So much so that my political friends mock me for being a rubbish Tory because of my love for the EU (alongside a couple of other lefty things).

I realised this morning that is because being British in Europe is a huge part of my identity and that has been torn apart overnight.

I saw Britain as part of a great project of cooperation. I thought we had found a way of maintaining peace through the imperative of economic collaboration.

I believe free markets are the best way to generate the wealth we need to lift up the poorest while creating amazing lives for ourselves. But I understand that a pure free market is a thing from a text book: it isn’t possible in reality.

The EU single market and all the regulation involved in creating and maintaining it was actually taking it and us toward that goal, not away from it as so many people would have you believe. The regulation involved was about homogenising the market to allow us to trade freely not about micromanaging our entrepreneurial flair.

I believe in free trade and with it freedom of movement across borders. Migration of the labour force is central to free trade. Any libertarian will tell you that. In fact, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove will tell you that.

I agree with both of them about a lot of things economic which is why I cannot comprehend why they thought this was a good idea.

The only thing I can really think is that they didn’t actually think they could win. They saw it as a route to winning a Tory leadership election down the line in 2019; not as something that would actually happen and that they would subsequently have to manage now.

Not only do I understand and believe in the economics of it all, I also believe that we are more aligned with our European neighbours than we are with anyone else. We have a shared history and culture that enriches us and makes sharing our lives easier.

I believe that immigration done well (i.e, with integration at its heart) benefits us all. As long as people speak the language and accept our law and basic cultural norms then we are enhanced by their culture and participation in our economy and civic life.

To have that ripped away overnight makes me question everything.

I would be inconsolable were it not for my husband and my own bleak sense of humour. Breakfast this morning actually turned in to a smug joke fest as we mourned the loss of our smoked salmon when Scotland leaves us and my needing to work out a smuggling route to Greece to access the squeaky cheese market less we only ever eat cheddar again.

I don’t want to eat jellied eels and kippers for breakfast Mr Farage, I want a god damned croissant you bastard.

The nation witnessed immediate tangible consequences yesterday: bank losses of $50 billion, global market loss of $2 trillion, oil price down 5%, and the pound down 7.4% a greater drop than at the start of the credit crunch shock.

I know a whole group of people who lost their jobs both inside politics but also outside in the real world: I feel desperately for them; none of them voted for this.

We have lost our triple A rating. Moody’s have downgraded us from stable to negative – for those that don’t know what that means it means all that debt we’re always talking about has become a lot more expensive overnight – that and the predicted loss of GDP will wipe out the much bemoaned £350 million weekly payments the leave campaign falsely claimed we would get back. We will only lose money, not save anything to spend at home.

Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland has understandably started the political process for a second independence referendum and I see no reason why the people of Scotland will not vote out this time around. I am a Unionist, but if I was Scottish I would now vote to be part of the EU, not little England. I spent the morning grasping at straws to get myself back in.

The unintended but obvious consequences of the vote are just starting to be realised. As we leave the EU the open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland will have to be closed. Try and get your head around what that means for the 20 year peace process there.

The Prime Minister has resigned and we will have a leadership election that will result in a more right-wing, less centrist government.

Jeremy Corbyn is dreadful. He refused to campaign with the Prime Minister and now he will not resign. He is unfit to lead his party and he is unelectable by an electorate that has just voted for Brexit.

The current Labour party will be annihilated in the election that will eventually follow the Conservative party’s leadership election – whatever Labour members might hope, Jeremy Corbyn is a guarantor of a Conservative landslide – and along with it any hope that we can reverse this decision.

We have placed our former European colleagues in an impossible position. Even those that might want to give us a good deal because, in or out, our economy and market are highly valuable, cannot help us now.

Why? Because by voting out we have legitimised the out campaigns in their own countries. They must now make an example of us to avoid a referendum contagion that could threaten the entire union.

It is one thing for Farage and Co. to want us out: it is another thing entirely to be obsessed with bringing them down too. What is that about, can someone please tell me?

Anyway, I started writing this with the intention of expressing my unmeasurable regret and sorrow but also with the intention of finding something positive. We have to look forward because that is the only thing we can do now, go forward.

So is there any hope?

Perhaps, but that depends on what happens next.

For me our only real option and our best chance of avoiding jumping in to the abyss via a complete economic structural shift backwards (10-20 years minimum…the vast majority of the rest of our working lives if you are my age).

That hope is that Europe offer us an Economic Area Agreement.

An EA agreement is basically ‘the Norway model’. Full access to the single market for an annual fee.

For those of us that are rational beings the idea that this option may now be on the table is mania-inducing, gob-smackingly stupid and ironic. Nonetheless, it is, like Obi Wan, our only hope.

There is no way to reverse the referendum result but there is a way to save our economy, our cultural ties and our freedom of movement and that is to push for an EA like Norway.

There are political consequences for that model.

It is completely insane to have ‘taken back control’ by signing up to everything we had before except our only ability to exert any control within the system. But hey I’ll take that over economic Armageddon and having to spend the rest of my life wondering if the rest of the world thinks Alan Partridge is our national role model.

The Farage supporting element of Thursday’s vote will not stomach it but when I last looked they had no influence in parliament and don’t actually represent the majority of the country.

A lot of people voted leave not because they are racists who hate immigrants but because of a misguided sense of patriotism and because they believe that our resources are overly stretched because of migration.

These people have woken up in the real world. Woken up to naughty Nigel making the fastest U-turn in electoral history. Of course that money isn’t going to the NHS: “partly because we lied about how much of it there was but mainly because it has disappeared thanks to the economic tsunami we have persuaded you to unleash upon yourselves”.

It’s easy as a Bremainer to laugh at people who believed that, but they did and they have been seriously let down. They won’t fall for Farage a second time.

The EU, China, India and America will push us to start the negotiation process as quickly as possible because the global economy abhors uncertainty.  I would imagine we can resist until the new Prime Minister is announced in October, but after that the screws will turn.

Until our future is known we cannot start the process of rebuilding our relationships with everyone else. Until our future is known – there will be a great deal of uncertainty.

That is why I hope we get lucky and that the EU may offer us an Economic Area Agreement.

There are other options, but they all but guarantee our free fall in to that economic abyss I mentioned earlier, so I’m not going to address them here.

Yes…an economic area agreement feels head-bangingly stupid but it is categorically in the national interest.

If we are even offered a sniff at the Norway model I strongly suggest we all suppress the urge to grab the nearest leave voter and shake them like a rattle whilst screaming WHYYYYYYYY and instead, pat them on the back and say: “okay, let’s do this thing”.

Ella Mason is an ex-Conservative party staffer, a Conservatives IN campaigner and a director at a public affairs agency

Tags: , , , , , , ,

7 Responses to “The Norway model is Britain’s only hope”

  1. paul barker says:

    Johnson, Farage & Gove certainly dont seem to be in any hurry do they ? They probably have no idea what to do next.
    I profoundly disagree that we have to accept Brexit, The 1975 Referendum was supposed to be a one-off, permanent. If its OK to have 2 Referenda then we can have a third as well. Many Leavers didnt beleive it would actually happen & are now getting cold feet, another vote would give them the chance to think again.

  2. Mr Akira Origami says:

    The Remainers still don’t get it …..the EU project has failed.

  3. Tafia says:

    I profoundly disagree that we have to accept Brexit

    Any party that refuses to accept the result will be destroyed at the polls. Apart from which all parties accepted that the result of this would be binding. The electorate have spoken and that’s that. It’s up to the politicians ow to make t work – if they can’t or won’t then they serve no purpose.

    If its OK to have 2 Referenda then we can have a third as well

    OK. we’ll have it in 40 years time.

  4. Hi Ella,

    If we’re faced with a General Election in the autumn, with the options of Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn as Prtime Minister, would you like a viable third option?

    Would you be willing to help create a viable third option?


  5. Bob says:

    Paul Barker:

    ‘If its OK to have 2 Referenda then we can have a third as well. Many Leavers didnt beleive it would actually happen & are now getting cold feet, another vote would give them the chance to think again.’

    So you don’t like the result and want to have anonther vote. Would you have the same view if Remain had won and the Leave voters were calling for another vote. Your comment would be you’ve had a vote and lost therefore tough.

    Hypocritical kant.

  6. Roger Hird says:

    Gee! We voted “in” in 1975 and that should be sufficient?

    Does Paul Barker really believe this – that a vote 41 years ago on joining a community 6 plus two other joiners – all of us then with pretty comparable economies and national objectives – binds us to remain in a community of 28 nations with disparate economies, much more intrusive into our government and everyday life than were the EEC, the ECSC and the EAEC and with fewer and fewer areas in which members can eccercise a national veto?

    come off it.

  7. Peter Dubois Johnson says:

    As a staunch Eurosceptic and Labour member all my life, I do believe what you are saying to be the truth.
    I have always believed in that the EEA would gives us much flexibility that people would be okay with. As long as it’s not sold as EU-lite and a path back toward the mothership.

    Open(ed?) borders and closed coffers is pretty much the way forward.

Leave a Reply