Richard North, 26/03/2015  
 

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Flagged up at the weekend by the Sunday Telegraph, Owen Paterson has now delivered his speech to Heritage, at the Thatcher Center in Washington. The full text is here.

As with the Europe speech, on which it is loosely based, this has hidden depths, but readers will particularly appreciate this passage:
In short, and this is critical for Americans to understand, it is not so much that Britain should leave the EU, as that the EU is leaving us. It is critical to understand that the economic Single Market and the political EU are not one and the same thing. The Single Market is a formal fact under an arrangement called the European Economic Area (EEA). It is an agreement between EU member states and three of the four members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) -- Norway, Iceland, and Lichtenstein minus Switzerland.

By switching our membership to the EEA, Britain can pursue participation in the Single Market without being strapped in the EU’s political and judicial straightjacket. And if we joined EFTA, often described as the "Norway Option", it would become the fourth largest trade bloc in the world.

Confusing membership of the Single Market with membership of the EU is a common error. You can stay in the Single Market and not be in the EU. And the argument that leaving the EU would damage Britain's ability to continue its trade with our European neighbours – thereby damaging the economy of the entire developed world including the US - massively underestimates the huge strategic and selfish interest that our neighbours have in ensuring our continued vigorous participation in the Single Market.
Even at the eleventh hour, I understand, there were attempts to stop Paterson saying that, and you can get a hint of how strident the critics are becoming, from this presentation chaired by Roger Helmer, who dismisses the Norway Option" out of hand, despite one of the speakers being Robert Oulds, who is to speak in support of the proposition.

One can note here the behaviour of Helmer, who is effusive in his praise of the increasingly tiresome Ruth Lea, and her promotion of the suicidal catastrophic "WTO option", yet can barely conceal his dislike for what Robert had to say.

Oulds's speech is worth listening to in full, and especially where he offers Delors as a "teaser", reminding us that on 17 January 1989 to the European Parliament, he spoke to idea of getting the EEA started. But the Commission President's vision, at the time, was of a "European village", in which he saw a house called the "European Community". "We are its sole architects; we are the keepers of its keys", he said, "but we are prepared to open its doors to talk with our neighbours".

Delors was actually proposing to the EFTA member states a "more structured partnership with common decision-making and administrative institutions", basically acknowledging the presence of equal partners in the "European village".

There is more than a hint of this in Owen Paterson's speech, when he argues that our exit from the EU "will strengthen both the global trading system and the foundations of global security". This is, he says, in tune with what Churchill told the House of Commons in June 1950 when he said:
With our position as the centre of the British Empire and Commonwealth and with our fraternal association with the United States in the English-speaking world, we could not accept full membership of a federal system of Europe.
Churchill went on to say:
We must find our path to world unity through the United Nations organisation, which I hope will be re-founded one day upon three or four regional groups, of which a united Europe should certainly be one. By our unique position in the world, Great Britain has an opportunity, if she is worthy of it, to play an important and possibly a decisive part in all the three larger groupings of the Western democracies. Let us make sure that we are worthy of it.
Here is also a version of the "European village", but one which fits in as one of upon three or four regional groups, which themselves are part of the United Nations.

This in turn reflects Churchill's speech to the Congress of Europe at The Hague on 7 May 1948. Then, with others, he argued for the United Nations to be the "paramount authority" in world affairs, but with regional bodies as part of the structure. They would be "august but subordinate", becoming "the massive pillars upon which the world organisation would be founded in majesty and calm".

Although he didn't specifically mention it by name, as far a Europe was concerned, Churchill was referring to UNECE, which had been founded in 1947, with some of the history told here. This, in effect, is the "European village" to which Delors could have been referring, in which the EU and EFTA were but individual "houses" with the same right of decision-making on Single Market rules.

Robert Oulds, in his address, tells us that, exactly a year later, Delors rescinded his offer of common decision-making. By then the Berlin wall had fallen and the EU was eyeing the former Soviet satellites as new members, and did not want to make life outside the EU too attractive.

But, with the EU poised to leave the UK, the moment again is arriving when the EU must concede common decision-making by different "houses" in the "European village", for which purpose Owen Paterson has already suggested UNECE as a suitable forum.

The Americans, yesterday, would not necessarily have understood his nuanced references, but gradually we are seeing the emergence of a credible, long-term alternative to the EU, and one which – oddly enough – Churchill was advocating back in 1950, when he was rejecting the idea of joining Mr Monnet's first supranational government.






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