The UK could leave the EU, keep full access to the single market, preserve all existing trade agreements, make its own trade deals outside the EU, and dump the nation-destroying free movement of people, without changing a single EU treaty, and without ruffling any but the most sensitive of Remain feathers.
To achieve all of this, the EU merely needs to give the UK — the world’s fifth largest economy — the same deal it has given tiny Liechtenstein.
Under this deal, non-EU Liechtenstein, as a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), is granted the same access to the single market that the UK currently has, but it is exempted from free movement and other EU rules.
The legal basis for this quite unremarkable deal is EEA Agreement article 112:
CHAPTER 4 SAFEGUARD MEASURES
If serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties of a sectorial or regional nature liable to persist are arising, a Contracting Party may unilaterally take appropriate measures under the conditions and procedures laid down in Article 113.
The EU has preemptively recognized that Liechtenstein, being so tiny, could be wiped off the map by uncontrolled migration, which, all agree, represents an obvious and persistent “serious economic, societal” difficulty to it.
The EU could justifiably declare that the UK’s withdrawal from the single market represents a persistent and serious economic difficulty for the UK, the EU and many of the EU’s member nations.
This single act of sensible cooperation would allow the UK to do a Liechtenstein.
We would, as an EEA member, (i.e. not an EU member) be freed from the bulk of intrusive EU lawmaking and policy decisions. For example:
5. What is not covered by the EEA Agreement?
The EEA Agreement does not cover the following EU policies: common agriculture and fisheries policies (although the EEA Agreement contains provisions on trade in agricultural and fish products); customs union; common trade policy; common foreign and security policy; justice and home affairs (the EEA EFTA States are however part of the Schengen area); direct and indirect taxation; or economic and monetary union.
Leave or Remain, what’s not to like about this deal?
Let’s trigger Article 50 and take the Liechtenstein option as soon as we can, so that we can all move on.