If we recruited 1000 brilliant economists, lawyers, and administrators, and asked each one to construct an economic and political system for governing a United Europe, not one would come up with the system that presently exists in the European Union.
The European Union system is a ‘one-off’ that is not practised in any other country in the world. The system was initiated by Germany and France, for the benefit of Germany and France.
The European Parliament only gives a belief of democracy to a wholly undemocratic Union run by the European Commission and the European Council. When the United Kingdom voted to leave the Union, the EU bureaucrats were livid that any member could have the audacity to exit a Union that has brought prosperity and security to many countries, and they are doing everything to effect a hard Brexit to dissuade other countries from even thinking of leaving.
The popular view supports a soft Brexit, giving the UK access to the single market, but also has obligations to accept open borders, which is not acceptable to many people who voted to leave. There are a number of ways that the UK could retain access to the single market.
Although Brexit means Brexit there is a possibility of having another referendum which could result in the UK remaining in the EU with full membership, and the accompanying costs.
We could adopt the Norwegian model. Although Norway is not a member state of the EU, it is closely associated with the Union through its membership of the European Economic Area – EEA – as it is a member of the European Free Trade Association – EFTA.
The EEA agreement grants Norway access to the EU’s single market, but must contribute to the EU budget and allow access to open borders.
There is the Swiss model, which has a series of bilateral treaties that govern the relationship between Switzerland and the EU, whereby the Swiss have adopted various provisions of EU law in order to participate in the single market. This comes with a cost and the acceptance of open borders.
The fallback position is that we just leave and refuse to pay any contributions to their very generous pensions. This could entail conflict with European Court of Justice and eventually with the International Court of Justice in the Hague.
It is debatable whether either of these bodies has the power or teeth to extract any dues from the UK.
The EU could also do what it does best, compromise, and fudge the the issue about open borders, as many EU member states dislike the current situation. This would allow the UK to negotiate a deal to remain in the single market.
The real answer is to have a Federal United States of Europe, which of course would never happen as France and Germany would refuse to give up their power base.
James Macintyre lives in Linlithgow. He is an retired chartered accountant