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If the UK leaves the EU?

In a new Centre for European Reform (CER) policy brief, ‘If the UK votes to leave: The seven alternatives to EU membership’, Jean-Claude Piris argues that none of the available options could satisfy both the UK’s political and economic interests at the same time. In exchange for access to the single market, Britain’s partners would demand that the UK apply corresponding EU rules, over which Britain would have little control.

Piris’s seven alternatives to full EU membership are as follows:
Half-membership – the UK remains a full, voting member of the single market but ditches most other EU policies; but the rest of the EU would not accept this.
The Norwegian option – Britain could join the European Economic Area (EEA) to retain market access; but it would lose its EU voting rights and still have to comply with free movement and other rules, and pay budget contributions.
The Swiss option – Britain would be part of the single market for goods, but not services; but the EU does not want to repeat the Swiss arrangement and it would in any case damage the City of London.
A withdrawal treaty leading to a customised relationship akin to the Norwegian option, but without EEA membership; but the strings of the Norwegian option would still be attached.
The EU’s customs union, like Turkey, would give Britain access to the single market in goods; but it would not be able to sign free trade agreements with countries outside Europe.
A bespoke free trade agreement – a likely option, but the more comprehensive the trade agreement, the more likely the EU is to demand adherence to EU regulations, free movement rules and budget contributions.
Trade with the EU under WTO rules – this option would return the most power to Britain; but UK exports to the EU would be subject to the EU’s common external tariff, while Britain would be forced to negotiate new trade agreements with reduced influence.

it is clear that the so-called Turkey option will not be on the table. firstly, Turkey’s association agreement does not allow for free movement and, more importantly, was granted to a sovereign state that was wanting to join the EU not leave it.

The director of the CER, Charles Grant says “Post-Brexit, if Britain wants access to the single market, it must accept EU rules and free movement, and pay into its budget.”


The full briefing by the CER can be found at

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