What if ‘access to the single market’ just means paying Brussels a massive bung to keep what’s already there?

In the FT yesterday, Janan Ganesh had good advice for those of us who might be vulnerable to becoming what Wolfgang Münchau describes as “bitter and without influence” (sound familiar)…

It is impossible to know what will happen after a hard exit but almost as impossible to see an alternative to finding out. Pro-Europeans must show goodwill during the process, but probably from the margins.

Test it, and see what happens. Apportion blame accordingly. Brutal, but democratic.

Two days ago the Times found a document saying that hard Brexit could cost £66 billion a year. Last night Newsnight discovered plans for the government to do a massive cash dump for access to the single market. [So no reliable cash savings from exiting the EU? – Ed.] Reliable, no.

The will to Brexit was a matter mostly of ideology first, material economics, later.

The  problem for anyone outside British state in dealing with the external consequences of the UK’s decision to back out of the EU. At today’s leaders questions, it became obvious that many of the Irish Government’s calculations were based on a Sterling rate that no longer meaningfully exists:

The other question, as framed by Colum Eastwood is whether the border is to go through the island or around it, will depend on the kind of deal the UK strikes with the EU.

A hard break, will mean a hard border of some sort. As Brokenshire’s comments demonstrate, no one on the British side of the debate seems to want a hard border on the island.  Nor does Michael Noonan, who explains:

“If you do not have a border going from Newry, going across, dividing Sligo and Donegal from the northern counties, the next step is to have controls at the ports. That would mean Rosslare and Larne [sea ports] and the airports, but that wouldn’t be much more than the normal checks we have at airports already, where you show your passport.”

As Pete noted in 2007 this is not that different to how things are done already.

But if ‘access to the single market’ just means getting out of the EU, but paying Brussels a massive bung keep what’s already there (with a tweak on immigration)? Then most of these fears should disappear over time.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • chrisjones2

    Or Brussels paying us to have access to our markets?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Possibly … but that’d mean ripping up the unilateral free trade plan.

    The fact is the UK is a major importer from the EU, and the Republic of Ireland is a major importer from the UK. It’ll lead to a pan-European slowdown, of which these islands will be the worst effected.

    So it’ll be swings and roundabouts for the continentals.

  • Kevin Breslin

    It means the UK won’t go SO Jingoistic and Stupid that it’ll start imposing sanctions on 22 NATO Allies, 2 Commonwealth Countries, the only European Union nation it shares a land border with, and 3 other neutral countries that contribute a net £6 billion worth of imports to the UK by themselves.

    It pretty much means Nothing.

  • chrisjones2

    I was just challenging mind set that we should act as supplicants in the process. Partners yes, Supplicants no

  • chrisjones2

    But we re told we ill have no choice ….WTO rules will make us

  • mickfealty

    Call it what you like Chris, but the fee would be collected by the administrators, ie Brussels not London. The WTO model would be a lot more expensive in terms of lost access.

  • anon

    This was obvious before the Referendum. Norway pays around 83% of full EU subs to be in the EEA – of course the leavers branded this ‘Project Fear’.

  • mickfealty

    Yep. Cynical would hardly cover it.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Access to the European Single Market already will exist to the United Kingdom. The World Trade Organisation pretty much guarantees it.

    It’s gibberish … EU access with tariffs is there automatically, and the UK would deliberately have to engineer a way not to have access.

    In other words Sanctions.

    The United Kingdom would pretty much have to ban all its citizens from accessing the Single Market, (even transporting non-EU goods like Russian Oil across the Single Market lands and waters) including hard borders inside Ireland but that level of self-mutilation really has no political purpose but international attention seeking.

    Effectively it’d cause a humanitarian crisis in Britain and Northern Ireland, and Europe effectively would be prevented from even giving aid, because that’d be accessing the Single Market too.

    Going down the WTO route as far as I am concerned is doing nothing … worse than EU membership … better than becoming a European North Korea like above.

    Opting for Single Market “Access” alone means Nothing.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Right so what exactly does the United Kingdom want to offer the European Union in order to get what it wants as partners.

    Is this going to be a nice easy quid pro quo relationship, with the UK gladly accepting two-way rights losses and third nation status on par with Norway and Switzerland?

    Does it pay the EU more than it did as a member in order to get more out of the European Union as a associate member state, which would mean Brexit was nothing more than a Machevillian strategy for getting rid of pesky UKIP MEPs?

    Or is it too desperate to prove to Desmond and Murdoch it’s not a mere small nation supplicant, (effectively being a supplicant to the tabloids) that it is willing to self-sabotage its own business networks including the City of London in order to damage the European Union through a second order effect?

    What would prove that the UK is not a supplicant of the EU to you?

    What respectful “bespoke arrangement” do you think those EU nations would sign off upon?

    Remember …

    * no positive discrimination for any British industries including its financial sector.

    * no positive discrimination for British citizens over EU citizens within the EU.

    * no rights to UK citizens from the EU that are not being granted to EU citizens in the UK.

    * no free trade without free trade treaty obligations being signed off on the Single Market court and WTO.

    (Surrendering sovereignty to outside bodies in case you missed it)

    * nothing for waving flags around, losing your temper, brinkmanship and demanding tribute. At best flattering imitation if anything.

    (I call this the Northern Irishing Yourself option … we see its failures every day)

    * accepting the EU will now act independent of UK policy makers.

    Would humiliating defeat in trade talks be non-supplication and biting its lips and respecting the 27 other European nations on a treaty that is based on equal obligations and responsibilities be considered supplication?

    These 27 nations having a right to regulate a market that they are working on without the distraction of some played out sham fight separation anxiety of the UK getting in their way.

  • Angry Mob

    I would actually brand it project lies because it isnt true.


  • chrisjones2

    FGree trade and access to the fifth biggest world economy

  • chrisjones2

    Sorry I am confused. Which fee do you mean?

  • Brian Walker

    Its hardly unreasonable to pay for a deal for good access to the single market when we pay more for full membership now.
    Today’s long Commons debate shows that a trade off between maximum access to the single market and a points system for EU workers will be at the core of the negotiations. It is inconceivable that a lot about this will not become known. The government pledge that Parliament will be as well informed on our side as EU rules require the Euro parlianment to be kept informed by the Commission..
    The arrangements for the open border line will be part of this. Here customs and tariff rules will be crucial. Still outstanding will be the future of what are today EU farm and other subsidies after 2020 and how the Northern Ireland Assembly will want to exercise the powers devolved from Brussels .

    Work on this we learn has already begun as has liaison across the board with the Republic. Brokenshire has shed some light. We need to know more over the next couple of months and we have a right to expect a business like and cooperative approach from the Executive

  • anon

    Until you find £350m a week for the NHS, you can take your leave campaigners’ stats and put them in the nearest bin.

  • mickfealty

    The ‘entrance fee’ to the SM? We’re not heading out the door because anyone carefully planned a future outwith the EU. The UK government if it has the sense will look to damage limit.

    As one remainer friend put ‘we could be in “serious but not desperate” territory. If we’re lucky!’ As our cruder friends might put it, ‘hard brexit mehole’.

  • Angry Mob

    Original bit of deflection.

    I never supported to £350 million lie, but it’s no worse than the lie you purport.

  • Angry Mob

    Rome wasn’t built in a day.

  • Angry Mob

    It’s barely four months from the vote, until you realise that brexit isn’t a one time event rather it’s a process which will take many years you may then begin to understand why people actually did vote to leave.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Firstly it’s the sixth biggest economy, and secondly the UK with its WTO nonsense ultimatums is taking free trade off the table.

  • mickfealty

    And you voiced your principled dissent on the £350 mill lie at the time? If you did, you would be in a tiny minority of Brexiteers who took your example.

    We have a homespun term for this kind of approach to collective decision making: father to all, parent to none.

    Which is why referendums are problematic. No one but the mass of anonymous voters are accountable for the consequences of the vote. That is to say, no one is.

    Let’s hope it’s not as bad as some Remainers have predicted. A big fat bung (coupled with zero say in future regulations of the SM), might just get us all through safely.

  • mickfealty

    You did it for reasons of sound economic sense? That doesn’t really stack up much more than Alec Salmond’s business plan for Scotland did. At least he made the effort though.

  • NotNowJohnny

    Why DID people actually vote to leave?

  • Abucs

    Perhaps the UK has much to gain from talking to countries like Norway and to organise resistance to the mafia collection racket of the EU.

  • Jim M

    The deluded (IMO) idea that ‘taking back control’ and ‘national sovereignty’ could be viable concepts in our globalised world. A desire to stick it to David Cameron. An (IMO understandable) suspicion re EU unaccountability. In some cases, xenophobia (and the even more deluded idea that a Brexit vote would ‘get them out’).

  • anon
  • Angry Mob

    Speak for yourself.

  • Angry Mob

    One of the many reasons, but for the long game. Most people who seem to deride this opinion are extremely short sighted but I guess that’s why the support the EU,

  • Angry Mob

    Yes I did:


    My point though was the £350 is a deflection from the point that anon made about Norway contributions which is a lie which you never seemed to question but rather support. I’m sort of disappointed in you, its the type of thing I’d expect from ernekid or hgreen but I thought you had some journalistic integrity and could show some impartiality.

  • Jim M

    Okay, why did you vote to leave then?

  • mickfealty

    Good contributions both. So what did Open Europe get wrong last year (https://goo.gl/XTdjDu):

    Pawel Swidlicki, research analyst at Open Europe, said: “The bad news is that overall, EU regulation costs too much in relation to the benefits it generates. The even worse news is that if the UK left the EU and became like Norway, 94% of the cost associated with the most burdensome EU rules would remain in place but the cost would be even harder to cut, since Norway has no formal voting powers over EU rules. Radical reform from within the EU or a far better trading model outside of it remain the UK’s best options for cutting regulatory costs.”

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The whole idea of complete “Westphalian” sovereignty is absurd in a world where so many once deemed necessary sovereignty issues are casually surrendered to the requirements of trade.

    The problem is that no-one actually spelt this out, and showed in detail just how impossible it would be to seperate from the EU and actually continue to even function in the modern world. As with the issues of shared sovereignty within the Belfast Agreement, had this been intellegently discussed, the shock raelisation of just how powerless in practice any government is nowadays might just have become clear to people who assume taht they are empowered by voting for people who are in many ways hamstrung by international agreements. People voted for “out” in a simplistic reaction to even a hint of such powerlesness, only to find that if we are to continue any meaningful involvement with international trade, very little can actually be altered.

  • mickfealty

    Well, it has to be a long game now. I accept you personally dissented on the £350 million argument, but surely you wouldn’t deny it was one of several big tanks (like immigration) that sheltered the poor bloody infantry as they broke the ranks of pampered Remainers?

  • Angry Mob

    I’d like to see the figures behind it, which you can see in the link I gave which you choose to ignore because of the £350m lie despite the fact that that grouping was critical of the £350m lie:

    If anyone seriously believes that the UK sends £350 million to Brussels each week, and that Brexit will allow us to spend that money on The NHS, they really do not belong here. But if, like a growing number of “leave” supporters, you are embarrassed by the superficiality of the Vote Leave campaign, then this is a better place to be, free from “project incompetence”

    The limited influence is debatable, the CAP could potentially be negotiated if we wanted and the ability to negotiate free trade agreements means it’s a much better option than being inside the EU, no bad for an interim solution.

  • anon

    Deloitte LLP will have the figures – postal address is on their website.

    “If anyone seriously believes that the UK sends £350 million to Brussels
    each week, and that Brexit will allow us to spend that money on The NHS,
    they really do not belong here”

    So you’re embarrassed by the Leave campaign’s lies, and you think that British people who believed those lies and voted to leave the EU should be deported?

  • anon

    It’s not a lie. You really undermine your own arguments with your baseless accusations of lying. Plus, it’s extremely bad manners.

  • anon

    The Open Europe report makes a slightly different point, which is the cost of complying with EU rules rather than the cost of contributions to the EU.

    On their figures, Norway makes a net contribution of €107.40 per capita into EU programmes, v €139 for the UK i.e. 77% of UK contributions.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    what a useful chart – thanks.
    I think we’re heading for something like EFTA but with Customs Union elements, from this.
    On what the British people want, I thought this (see link below) was fascinating from YouGov – came out mid holiday season in August so seems to have been less noted than it might have been. Points also towards something EFTA-ish. Hard Brexit as an idea is dead in the water now, and this poll shows how little support there is for it. It’s risible and the likes of Fox and Redwood are now being called on it – hahaha! F*** them. https://yougov.co.uk/news/2016/08/18/majority-people-think-freedom-movement-fair-price-/

  • congal claen

    What do you think QE was about?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you for a most interesting link, MU.

  • Jams O’Donnell

    6th now, after Brexit

  • Angry Mob

    I’m not sure how many people fell for it, nor am I sure of how many people fell for the economic armageddon that the remain side put forward but I’d hazard a guess it would of been far greater.

    Had we had an intelligent debate and the official leave campaign been given to the likes of the leave alliance we would have avoided the £20 billion lie, £350 million lie etc and slowly dismantled the economic arguments put forward by the remain camp I think the leave would have won by a much greater margin.

  • Angry Mob

    “Baseless”. They are no less baseless than your original assertion which lacks any sort of citation. If it is rude to accuse one of lying then one should remember who brought up the straw man argument of the £350 lie in order to refute my argument.

    Surely, equally bad manners then on your part?

  • Angry Mob

    Did you read the link?

    The quote was from the link, it means they should not be here as within the context of the website, not the country.

  • pablito

    The figure I saw bandied about was £5 billion, not paid directly to the EU, but to support certain EU projects. This, along with an immigration policy which allows EU workers the right to work in the UK provided they have jobs to go to, and don’t claim any benefits for 5 years, is a reasonable price to pay for access to the Single Market. Full membership would not be possible, nor even desirable, because the customs union which is the Single Market regulates all trading arrangements with countries outside the EU. One of the main arguments for Bexit was to have control over those things. Looking ahead 10-20 years, if the UK secures its own trade deals with countries such as China, India, the US and the Commonwealth countries, it would be in Ireland’s economic interests to join it. The EU is a sclerotic organisation which will stagger from crisis to crisis with its one policy fits all economics, as it continues to lose its share of world trade. If Greece and Italy had the ability to devalue in a crisis, as the UK is presently doing, the recession, stagnation and mass unemployment they are currently suffering could be considerably relieved.

  • anon

    My original point was based on information prepared by Deloitte – not baseless at all. The £350m claim casts some doubt on the accuracy of information prepared by leave campaigners, and hence the link you provided. You seem intelligent enough, I really shouldn’t have to spell that out for you.

  • Angry Mob

    The second link I provided however shows that the particular group ‘Leave Alliance’ dissociated themselves from ‘Vote Leave’ who ran the official leave campaign and started the 350m lie thus the Ad Hominem fallacy of guilt by association doesn’t wash here which makes it credible, more so as it provides citations.

  • John Collins

    John Murphy, the famous London based Kerry construction mogul, was once told by a reluctant underling justifying his tardiness that ‘Rome was not built in a day’. To which the Kerry man replied ‘John Murphy was not around then’.

  • eamoncorbett

    The shape of Brexit will eventually come down to the demands of the Tory right versus the Remainers . There will have to be give and take between these 2 factions . May will not want the party to split a la Corbyn and Labour , so she will have to give in on immigration because if she doesn’t she will end up like John Major and Cameron , constantly battling the right wing element and capitulating in the end. On the other hand the Remainers will be looking for free access to the SM which will be denied because of the immigration stance .
    A major split looks like the most obvious outcome in a couple of years because the outcomes listed above are incompatible unless one side drops it’s demands. The Tory party war on Europe is just beginning.

  • mickfealty

    Maybe. It’s telling though that that alleged support is not reflected in the membership of the House of Commons.

  • Angry Mob

    From the house of commons debate it seems pretty clear that many of our MP’s are less informed than some members of the public, including government ministers.

  • anon

    You’re very confident in the Leave HQ figures, though they are an outlier when compared with other figures provided by Open Europe and by Deloitte, as pointed out elsewhere on this thread.

    The LeaveHQ figures state that Norway contributed €1.63bn to EU budgets between 2007 and 2013, referencing a 2010 EFTA publication. While rightly calling this an ‘estimate’ they didn’t find time to include the part of the document which stated:

    “It should be noted that as the EEA EFTA proportionality factor changes annually, the EEA EFTA contribution may increase as one gets closer to 2013. For the EEA EFTA States, the average annual contribution over the seven-year period is around €250 million”

    In addition, a quick look at the Norway Mission to the EU website casts doubt on these figures.
    It says Norway’s average annual commitment to EU programmes from 2014-2020 will be €478m, on top of the EEA grants contribution, which is roughly half the €391m per year contribution into the EEA grants and Norway grants schemes. It’s pretty clear that €250m is a significant underestimate of the total cost to Norway of contributions to EU programmes.

    LeaveHQ’s €250m figure is therefore an out-of-date estimate and does not include the further contributions made which are not part of the EEA grants. From this clearly incorrect figure, they then deduct €160m, resulting in a net contribution of €90m.

    Open Europe’s figure is €550m net, which is much more consistent with the information on the Norway Mission to the EU website. Open Europe quotes €107 per capita net contribution, which is c.77% of UK per capita contributions. This is roughly in line with the CBI’s figure (€100 per capita) and with the Deloitte figure of 83% I quoted earlier.

    So, in summary, I don’t believe the LeaveHQ figures at all.

  • Angry Mob

    The Norway website that you link to is for the 2014-2021 period so irrelevant to the figures between 2007-2013.

    Heres the page for the peroid in question:

    “In 2011 Norway’s contribution was around 207 million euros.”

    However, if we wish to speak of the more recent figures:

    Yet, according to the Norwegian government’s own figures, its total EU mandated payments (gross) are approximately £435m (€600m) per annum. With a population of five million, that is approximately £86 (€120) per head (gross). Net payments, however, are about £340m (€470m) per annum, or about £68 (€94) per head.

    On the other hand, in 2014, the UK gross contributions to the EU were £19.2bn, less £4.9bn rebate. That gives an equivalent gross payment of £14.3bn. After receipts, our net contribution was £9.8 bn.

    With a population of 64 million, that puts our gross contribution (without rebate) at £300 per head, our equivalent gross payment at £223 per head, and our net per capita payment £153 per annum – more than twice the Norwegian payments.


  • anon

    £340m a year per your workings is almost 4 times what LeaveHQ were claiming the net contribution to be.
    All we’re really proving here is that what it says on the Norway Mission website is correct:
    “It is not possible to compare net payments between those of an EU Member State and those of a Non-Member state”!

  • Angry Mob

    I believe the €90 figure to be the approx cost to the single market for the 07-13 period per year. The additional programs such as Horizon 2020, Eurasmus etc are optional bolt-ons if you like which it is in Norway’s interest to pay into and which I expect that the UK will continue to do so post brexit but I am inclined to agree that it can’t be taken as an actual cost of EEA membership as it’s actually the EFTA agreement that allows for this, thus that is why the estimate for Switzerland in your graph is more accurate.

    However whatever figures you look at the figure is definitely less, but given that we may have to fund other things brexit may not be a massive saving as everyone thinks at worst it may be cost neutral or worse for the starting point anyway.

    As to the regards the reason of my irritability of this subject is the quickness of both sides (leave and remain) to denounce the EEA/EFTA option when I believe it to be the best course to the UK as an interim solution. The hope here is that control of the single market is removed from the EU’s remit and given to an organisation such UNECE for a truly European single market.