Vote Leave discretely and disingenuously propose two mutually exclusive models for the nation post-Brexit, one outside the Single Market, one in. Acting like snake oil salesmen they offer a generally risk-averse British electorate (with much to lose) the possibility of having its cake and eating it, at the same time cynically denying the fact that is increasingly clear; Brexit is a gamble with uncertain odds.
Bandying about the discredited £350m weekly ‘cost’ of EU membership, Michael Gove has suggested that Britain outside the Single Market would be free to spend his mythical saving on our own priorities (his is not the politics that favours increased public spending – do not be fooled). This £350m is not only fictional in its calculation but, as the IFS has confirmed, very likely to be more than offset by lower growth and its depressing effect on tax receipts.
Withdrawal from the Single Market is the scenario most likely to damage the economy in the short term, with multinational manufacturers and financial organisations domiciled in the UK for EU access relocating to the continent, and UK exporters faced with new tariffs and trade barriers.
Others in the Leave camp seem to favour continued Single Market membership, and sketch out a utopian future where the UK continues to have access to the market like Norway and Switzerland: countries that contributes to the EU budget, accept unlimited EU migration and have no direct influence on EU decision making.
They must be clear, our options are:
a. Taking the plunge, withdrawing from the EU and Single Market, crossing our fingers and hoping for the best.
b. Exiting the Union but attempting to remain in the Single Market (with contributions to the EU budget and freedom of movement, but no say in the rules).
c. Continuing with the present unique arrangement (that will be enhanced with a Remain vote).
Gove, and others, have argued that there is another option, that our clout would allow us to dictate better terms than Norway and Switzerland, that we could gain access to the Market without any of the ‘nasties’. This is pure speculation. No country has left the EU, and given the significant electorates in other European countries also keen to exit the EU do we really think that European leaders will gift the UK exit terms that give succour to their own political adversaries? Irrespective of how many tonnes of cheese, litres of Olive Oil or BMWs they sell us (I’m sure I’m not alone in being tired of these clichés) this is simply not realpolitik.