In the absence of anyone serious stepping up with a plan for UK exit, I have had an idea. It is an idea that satisfies the public’s stated referendum wish to leave the EU, but also acknowledges the political reality that the House of Commons is supreme, and the House of Commons wants continued close cooperation with Brussels. Since Vote Leave made a great show of the importance of Parliament deciding Britain’s future, it is hard to see how they would reject this. After all, Vote Leave repeatedly held up its hands and said that they were not the government, and would not be in charge of crafting a post Brexit future. They said they did not need and still have not offered one.
Devo min does what it says on the tin: it means that Britain legally leaves the European Union and all its associated structures. However, unlike Norway or Switzerland, it becomes an “associate partner” of each and every structure. As an associate partner, or observer, or outer tier participant, Britain is not legally a full member of the EU. However, Parliament agrees to continue paying into the EU coffers in the same way as it currently does, and has the same positioning in each EU institution as it previously did, under the new rubric of ‘observer’.
In the tactile world of de facto nothing changes, while in the fantasy that is day jure, Britain has left the EU and is free of all its evils. Each aspect of Britain’s relationship with Brussels has instead been decided by parliament.
In terms of economics and trade, absolutely nothing changes in reality. The law notes that Britain’s status has changed, but notes that Britain’s new status upholds all the old rights, privileges, and obligations. We are no longer members of the EU free movement system: we are members of the new ‘associate partner open migration system’. We are no longer full members of the single market. We are now ‘enhanced trade partners’ of the European Union. And so on. And so forth.
This compromise should hopefully be easy to agree with the other 27 members in Brussels, who seem so dismayed and shocked that we would vote to leave. Angela Merkel said that we cannot leave to cherry pick our deal, that we cannot have all of the EU’s positives without also paying the costs. This way, we would agree to take all of the positives, and to pay all the costs.
If you had not guessed by now, I am joking. Well, I am half joking. I would absolutely love it if Parliament did this, and it would serve Vote Leave right for failing to define any exit or take responsibility in the days that followed the vote. However, I know they will not. Still, moderate readers can see the appeal.
The closest reality to this is in fact the Norwegian option, obeying many of the EU’s rules in exchange for many of the privileges. It is the best deal we can realistically get, one that allays the fears of most Remainers, one that shows we are not a xenophobic isolationist country. It would allow us to pursue our own free trade policy with the rest of the world and see whether Britain’s individual strength is as great as leavers claim. Is the only sensible option and one I will be supporting, unless someone of vital importance takes up the cause of devolution minimum.