Poll reveals EEA Option has big support (including half of Leave voters)

Roland Smith
Jun 11, 2016 · 5 min read
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Big news. A Yougov poll has just been published in the Telegraph showing a lot of support for the EEA (‘Norway’) Option.

Before hitting the detail, let’s just do a quick reminder.

The EEA Option has been gradually and quietly gaining momentum since March, when the Telegraph first reported that senior civil servants in Whitehall were seriously looking at it. This was recently repeated on the BBC’s Newsnight programme.

The option, which would see Britain initially moving to a Norway-like single-market-based position outside the EU, is actually a stage in a broader multi-step roadmap of gradual disengagement from the EU and re-engagement with the rest of the world. Some of us have argued for it openly for some time but others, especially Vote Leave, have instead focused on stopping free movement which implies that the EEA stage cannot be used (because it comes with free movement, albeit with an emergency brake and potentially other tools for containing it).

Then again, among those other Leavers who on the surface look unimpressed by the EEA option, there are some who say it would be a stage in the process of disengagement. This is a view advanced by Dr Andrew Lilico, for example, who believes it is essentially a technical planning detail that he claims is widely accepted as an ‘obvious’ step in the UK’s new journey. But he sees it as something for the negotiations after a Leave vote.

Aside from Lilico and some other quieter voices (Kwasi Kwarteng MP has just come out in favour), an accusation is often made that the EEA Option cannot be used in any circumstances because it would be seen as a ‘betrayal’ of Leave voters, who have been egged on by Vote Leave’s anti-free movement and anti-single market rhetoric.

On Twitter I am mostly followed by Leavers, but what is odd is that it’s the Remainers who mainly stress about ‘betrayal’ and attempt to speak on behalf of Leavers. By contrast, the Leavers are relatively quiet. Quite a few tacitly support the option.

Well, we now have evidence for my hunch.

The Yougov poll published in the Sunday Telegraph lays out the detail.

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So that’s a full 57% of Britons who believe the Government should consider the EEA/Norway option in the event of a Leave vote, compared to 24% who said that such an arrangement should not be on the table. The numbers hardly change for using the EEA/Norway position as an interim solution.

That’s more than 2:1 in favour. Astonishing.

But the poll also found that after stripping out the Don’t Knows, almost half of Leavers believed that an EEA position like Norway should be considered in the event of a Leave vote, with slightly more than half who said it should not. With the Don’t Knows separated out, it’s 42% and 45% respectively. Even a quarter of UKIP supporters agreed with the proposition, while only 33% were “strongly opposed”.

So there’s very little ‘betrayal’ here.

But given that the vast majority of Remainers (almost 80%) also supported this Leave option, there is clearly a wide-ranging consensus across the spectrum just waiting to come together.

What is also notable is the fact that Scotland is the part of Britain most favourable to this path, with almost two thirds of Scots voters coming out in support. Every age group and social grade across Britain also expressed support.

Which brings us to the only one possible conclusion and it’s a very big one…

This is a Leave proposition that can reunite Britain.

Crucially, it provides a low-risk, recession-free method of disengaging from the EU soon after a Leave vote. And because of that, it kills off the risk of any alleged Brexit reverberations hitting the rest of the EU and the eurozone economy, thereby giving the rest of the EU good reason to support it.

Almost every other outcome of this referendum, except Leave being completely thrashed by Remain (which now looks very unlikely), is going to cause anguish and division for many years to come.

So I say again to Remainers: Firstly you need to stop dissing the EEA option. And secondly, you need to start getting behind the EEA Option as the first de-risked step in a new journey towards a genuinely global and United Kingdom.

But first, we need to vote Leave on 23rd June.

Over to you.

The EEA Option — by the dozen

Twelve good reasons for voting Leave and supporting the EEA route out:

  1. It provides a quicker departure from the EU than a bespoke deal
  2. It provides a good interim solution that creates more time to strike a better long-term deal
  3. It protects the economy/continuity of trade during and after exit
  4. It creates a market-based relationship that most people in Britain want.
  5. It creates a model and a path out of EU membership that other EU states may then follow.
  6. It provides an exit settlement that Leavers and Remainers can unite around — it heals political wounds.
  7. It provides an exit settlement that Scots, Northern Irish and Gibraltarians can support.
  8. It returns big policy areas to the UK e.g. CAP, CFP, Common Foreign policy, Law & Order, VAT. (see table below for more)
  9. It gives the UK a proper emergency brake on the four freedoms including free movement
  10. It frees the UK to negotiate new trade deals with other countries, individually or as an EFTA group (which will become the fourth trade largest bloc in the world).
  11. EFTA Court preliminary rulings on single market rules for EEA countries are not binding
  12. It becomes possible to reject any measures that still come from the EU.
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