“Let’s leave the EU and join the EEA or EFTA – Norway and Switzerland are doing fine without EU membership!” It’s a perennial argument of a surprisingly large number of anti-EU types, and I’ve been meaning to do a proper post on it for (literally) years. It is, needless to say, a nonsense argument based on a fundamental misunderstanding of Norwegian/Swiss relations with the EU.
Norway has oil. Switzerland’s a tax haven. Both have far, far smaller populations than the UK, accounting for their far higher GDPs per capita (and hence relative prosperity). They are not comparable with Britain.
Even if they were – both also have to pay in to the EU budget proportionate to their economies. Norway currently pays c.340 million euros per annum. This is more than many EU member states – especially when you consider the fact that actual members get money back, reducing their net contributions.
In fact, judging from this chart of net contributions, Norway would – if included in the chart – be about the 10th highest contributor to the EU budget, despite not being a member.
Rough maths tells us that, all things being equal, as the UK’s GDP is approximately 5.7 times that of Norway’s, the UK would still need to contribute around 2 billion euros a year to the EU budget if part of the EEA/EFTA. While having no say in what EU laws and regulations we’d still have to follow.
Because both Norway and Switzerland also – without having any say in their formulation – have to abide by 80-90% of EU rules and regulations in order to be part of the Common Market.
Because you know what you need for a Common Market to function? Common rules and regulations.
That’s the whole reason *why* the EEC has been shifting down the path towards elements of political union over the last five decades – you need a certain amount of political harmonisation to enable functional, stable economic harmonisation. The lack of greater political cohesion (especially the lack of a common fiscal policy) is one of the major contributing factors to the current eurozone crisis, FFS.
Also worth remembering – these “we’d be better off in EFTA/the EEA” arguments used to have a third “look how well so-and-so’s doing” country included: Iceland.
We don’t hear much about how well Iceland’s doing in the EEA any more, do we?
You see – it’s all very well saying “let’s leave the EU”. But if you’re advocating ditching the status quo you’d better have a pretty bloody well thought-through alternative plan.
The vast, vast majority of EU withdrawalists, however, seem simply not to have done their research.
(This originally posted as a comment here, and now slightly modified with additional links)