About EFTA4UK: A Campaign to #MakeBrexitWork
EFTA4UK was formed in 2015 to raise the profile of and provide information about the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and to make the case for rejoining it as an alternative to EU membership.
The group was influenced by the work done by prominent Eurosceptics such as Christopher Booker, Richard North and Roland Smith. It was endorsed by the former MEP Dan Hannan in May 2016.
In September 2020, the original members of EFTA4UK endorsed the relaunch of the campaign in a statement.
EFTA4UK will promote a vision of a post-Brexit UK which has a real chance of wide support:
Avoid ‘No Deal’
Prevent a No Deal outcome by campaigning for any sensible Brexit. Time is running out, but it is not too late to act now in order to prevent a great deal of unnecessary disruption to trade, and to people’s lives.
Campaign for the UK to rejoin the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Whether the UK agrees a ‘Free Trade Agreement’ with the EU or not, there are many reasons why re-joining EFTA would benefit the UK (and EFTA!).
For the UK to rejoin the EEA through EFTA membership. Many people who voted Leave (as well as all who voted Remain) expected and hoped that the UK would continue to have full access to the European Single Market.
To fund 2 full-time and 2 part-time positions to deliver the campaign objectives as well as finance of campaign materials, including website, video production, digital advertising and other expenses
The primary purpose of our campaign is to secure a type of Brexit that more closely resembles the promises made to Leave voters before the EU referendum by promoting the EEA and EFTA.
We aim to create political space that would allow the Prime Minister, the cabinet and the wider Conservative Party to abandon the disastrous red lines set by Theresa May and shift towards promises previously made by the Vote Leave team. But support must be secured across the political spectrum, including from opposition MPs and, especially, from among those who voted Remain in the 2016 referendum.
Raise awareness of the benefits of rejoining EFTA among the general public, policymakers and the media.
Increase public support for rejoining EFTA and form a broad coalition of support in favour of rejoining EFTA
Gain the support of, and secure public backing from, key influencers in positions of power/opinion formers in favour of rejoining EFTA.
To persuade the government to alter Brexit policy by switching to a softer approach – initially by promoting EFTA membership on its own merits and suggesting that as a step it would not be contrary to other UK Government policy.
Our core team is made up of people drawn from a variety of backgrounds who bring a range of skills and diversity of experience. Some campaigned for Leave in the 2016 EU Membership Referendum whilst others campaigned to Remain. All agree that the best way forward for the United Kingdom is to seek a more pragmatic, conciliatory and constructive approach to Brexit. The first, decisive step towards that would be joining the European Free Trade Association.
Ben is a writer and commentator across several widely read publications including the Telegraph and Reaction Life. Ben campaigned staunchly for the ‘Liberal Leave’ Efta/EEA Brexit model in 2016.
Patrick is a Public Affairs Consultant and lobbyist, and former National Organiser of Conservatives For A People’s Vote. He has a background in international trade consultancy and political development, working with free-market think tanks and governments in Asia. He has featured in BBC documentary Brexit Storm and is an experienced media commentator including regular appearances on local television.
Martin is a management consultant, former think tank researcher and lobbyist (appearing on national TV) for small business organisations and successful campaign featured in Public Affairs Magazine; provided research and articles on trade issues for the Conservative Group for Europe.
James is a businessman, video production specialist, and international filmmaker. James’ business was one of the Brexit-backing companies listed in the Telegraph prior to the referendum. He also supported his father’s PPC campaign for the Referendum Party back in 1997. After the Brexit Vote, he became an active voice of the RemainerNow group up until December 2019.
Mark has been part of EFTA4UK since 2017. In that time he has been primarily responsible for the Facebook page as well as profile raising efforts through articles and letters to newspapers printed in the group’s name.
Support for EFTA
Dogmatic political principles and immoveable ‘red lines’ have not served our negotiations well and have served instead to polarise society into ‘Hard Brexiteers’ and ‘Remoaners’. Our belief is that both of these positions represent the fringes of public opinion and that the vast majority of the public want the government to find a moderate way forward that protects freedoms and livelihoods. Arguing for UK membership of EFTA is a first step — something that would be advantageous on its own but which would also open the way to full Single Market participation (within the EEA). The argument that the UK should rejoin EFTA is a strong one.
EFTA-Lite (The “Docking” Argument)
Although it would be unlikely to resolve the issues currently facing the UK, it has been suggested that the UK might ‘dock’ into EFTA structures (see these articles by Chatham House and the Institute for Government).
EFTA is the most successful body in the world in negotiating trade deals. Even those who have called for a ‘No Deal’ Brexit recognise the strength of EFTA trade agreements, as shown in this article.
Support for Scottish independence is partly driven by Brexit. EFTA for the whole UK would remove one of the issues currently increasing demands for secession.
Arctic Trade Routes
With climate change, the Arctic is changing and opening up. A trade route from South Korea to Tilbury is shorter via the north than it is going via the Suez canal or around the Cape. It is also where a number of crucially important subsea cables run. Russia (and China) are looking to bolster their control of the melting arctic and the UK needs to pay close attention to the north & react accordingly. Combining EFTA membership up with an arctic defence review (one took place in 2018), environmental change, trade, etc. would vastly increase the coherence of UK foreign policy and strategy.
Re-joining EFTA is a step to normalising relations with the countries in Europe and repairing our reputation at home and overseas. It also sends a signal to the world (and businesses at home) that the UK government has an idea of what it is doing and where it is going.
Culture and History
Membership of EFTA ‘fits’ the kind of country we are. It is an association of free-trading sovereign states that are fully part of Europe yet outside the European Union. Norway and Iceland are both members of NATO and our trading links across the North Sea go all the way back to the days of the Hanseatic League. Switzerland, like the UK, is a leading financial centre. We helped found EFTA in 1960, so although we left to join the EU in 1973, re-joining would be far from uncharted territory.
Real Access to European Markets
It is currently only possible to join (in our case re-join) the EEA by being a member of either the EU or EFTA. EU membership makes EEA membership automatic, though if we join EFTA we are not obliged to accede to the EEA Agreement. There is no precedent for a separate ‘pillar’ for EEA membership. EFTA’s compliance with the EEA is monitored by EFTA bodies – the EFTA Surveillance Authority and the EFTA Court (which has its own separate body of case law).
An Escape Route
The government has been negotiating itself into a corner for some time. However we try to manage a slender trade agreement with the EU — let alone ‘no deal’ — problems and arguments look certain to rumble on for years to come, with little hope of resolution. Our campaign offers an escape route to a place of safety where we can take stock, rebuild and move forward.