GREECE’S FORMER FINANCE MINISTER, Yanis Varoufakis – who squared up to the EU two years ago and lost – says that the only way that Westminster can go about “diffusing the EU’s spoiling tactics” and “secure a good [Brexit] deal for the UK” is by going for a Norway-style arrangement.
Varoufakis’s comments come in the wake of key voices in the Scottish independence movement who have been suggesting that a Norway-style arrangement might be the best option for Scotland, post-independence.
Common Weal director, Robin McAlpine, recently wrote:
“joining [the] European Free Trade Association (EFTA) instead of the EU could be the answer for Scotland”
Back in November 2016, Scotland’s First Minster, Nicola Sturgeon, confirmed that the Scottish government were considering European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and European Economic Area (EEA) as options instead of immediate full EU membership for an independent Scotland. As the Herald newspaper reported at the time:
“THE SNP Government is looking to Norway as a model for keeping Scotland in the EU single market, the First Minister has confirmed … Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and European Economic Area (EEA) models were being considered in case of a hard Brexit.”
If the UK government had to give up its sprint towards a hard Brexit – as Varoufakis suggests it will – and instead go for EFTA membership, this could be a blow for the Scottish independence movement.
Given that a majority of people in Scotland support staying in the EU, a clear choice between staying in the UK and hard Brexit, or going for independence and EFTA or EU membership, would seem to strengthen the hand of the independence movement.
In Varoufakis’s recent article he outlines why, in his experience, the UK government will find it very difficult to negation the Brexit deal that it wants from the EU. He concludes by highlighting why going for EFTA membership may end up being the UK government’s only feasible choice:
“The only way May could secure a good deal for the UK would be by diffusing the EU’s spoiling tactics, while still respecting the Burkean Brexiteers’ strongest argument, the imperative of restoring sovereignty to the House of Commons. And the only way of doing this would be to avoid all negotiations by requesting from Brussels a Norway-style, off-the-shelf arrangement for a period of, say, seven years.
“The benefits from such a request would be twofold: first, Eurocrats and Europhiles would have no basis for denying Britain such an arrangement. (Moreover, Schäuble, Merkel and sundry would be relieved that the ball is thrown into their successors’ court seven years down the track.) Second, it would make the House of Commons sovereign again by empowering it to debate and decide upon in the fullness of time, and without the stress of a ticking clock, Britain’s long-tem relationship with Europe.
“The fact that May has opted for a Brexit negotiation that will immediately activate the EU’s worst instincts and tactics, for petty party-political reasons that ultimately have everything to do with her own power and nothing to do with Britain’s optimal agreement with the EU, means only one thing: she does not deserve the mandate that Brussels is keen to neutralise.”
Varoufakis’s insights suggest that the Scottish independence movement has been ahead of the game on Brexit. But are we about to lose a significant advantage on a key campaigning issue for a future Scottish independence referendum?