Richard North, 06/04/2016  

It is hugely ironic that, when Prime Minister David Cameron comes close to telling the truth about the EU in his recent article in the Telegraph, a lot of people thought his claim so exaggerated that they were prepared to dismiss it as a lie.

This was his scenario where he asks us to "Imagine a world where a British airline wasn't allowed to fly between Rome and Paris", as a consequence of us leaving the EU.

It could have been better phrased, because what he was referring to was the right of a UK-registered airline picking up paying passengers in Rome and dropping them off in Paris, or vice versa, when en route from a UK destination.

This, though, is not a given right and, in aviation terms is known as the sixth freedom. The first five rights, which include the right to fly to and from a foreign county, the right to overfly others, and the right to refuel or carry out maintenance in a foreign country without embarking or disembarking passengers or cargo, come as part of the package written into the Convention on International Civil Aviation of 1944, otherwise known as the Chicago Convention.

The so-called "sixth freedom" is one of several known as "beyond rights", which do not come automatically. They must be negotiated and agreed separately between individual member states or, in the case of the EU, within specific trading blocs.

For the UK, these rights came about in respect of other EU members states in what was known as the "third package" of liberalisation and other rules, embodied in Council Regulations (EEC) Nos 2407/92, 2408/92 and 2409/92, agreed in 1992.

Since repealed, they have been recast as Regulation (EC) No 1008/2008 on common rules for the operation of air services in the Community, a text which also applies to Efta states within the EEA.

As an EU regulation, this would fall if we adopted the stratagem favoured by some Ukip members of unilaterally repealing the European Communities Act, in order to leave the EU.

But, as Mr Cameron also points out, we would lose this freedom if, as Mr Alexander (aka Boris) Johnson once suggested, we adopted something like the Canadian free trade agreement (CETA) as a model for a post-exit Britain. Under this deal, Canadian airlines are only allowed to operate routes in Europe if they start or end at a Canadian airport. If this rule was applied to British airlines, they would have to scrap hundreds of routes.

Of course, if we adopted the exit stratagem recommended in Flexcit, and rejoined the EEA under the Efta banner, these regulations and many more would stay in force, and our airlines could continue operating just as before.

The trouble is that none of the noise-makers – the "GO" movement, or Vote Leave – are actually proposing this stratagem. Variously, they all want some kind of (unspecified) free trade deal with the EU, effectively giving them full market rights without the commitment to free movement of people.

Doubtless, this magical "bespoke deal" that the noise-makers want is attainable – although no-one has yet committed any details to paper. But what is becoming increasingly apparent is the number of side-issues that are going to have to be settled.

Only the other day, we were discussing specific arrangements for the Irish land border, which will have to deal with movement of goods and people.

There are issues which have been widely discussed about the rights of expats, there are the reciprocal medical treatment agreements, the replacement for the European arrest warrant, the treatment of asylum seekers in Calais, and dozens of other issues that have been raised recently.

To those, Mr Cameron adds the problems of British farmers being slapped with tariffs if they wanted to export more beef to Europe, and of British telecoms companies and car manufacturers facing new barriers when trying to sell their goods and services to customers in Europe.

The Prime Minister also raises the issue of broadcasting. Under EU rules, once a broadcaster is licensed in one member state, it can broadcast in all. If we replicated Canada's deal, companies would have to choose between seeking separate licences in all EU states in which they want to broadcast, and moving out of the UK altogether.

Then, Mr Cameron reminds us, there's our biggest service industry: financial services. Half of all international financial firms base their European headquarters in the UK. From their one office here, EU membership allows them to do business in all 27 other EU states.

These are the so-called passporting rights, and if we are to have a "bespoke deal", we will need to carve out replacement arrangements.

Then, if freedom of movement is not to be unrestricted, then we are going to need negotiations on access provisions. We are gong to have to negotiate separately access to the various security databases, and to market surveillance information, to sharing information on plant and animal diseases, and we're going to need to agree common maritime rules, and air traffic control regulations.

Altogether, it would be rather nice if some of those gifted researchers in either or Vote Leave could get together and list all the separate issues that will have to be negotiated and agreed. And if just the basic Single Market acquis is 5,000 legal acts – without taking account of the CAP and CFP, one might imagine that this could be a rather long list.

If we now remember that it took Mr Cameron ten months to come to a non-deal on his five "baskets", what we then need is for those gifted researchers to come up with a sensible, evidence-based estimate of how long they think it might take to negotiate all the issues which they have listed.

So far, all we seem to be getting is a variation of "alright on the night". The EU needs our trade, so they will want to come to an agreement. And, while that may well be the case, to give that a veneer of credibility, we need some detail on the issues that need to be settled and a timescale.

Without this, Mr Cameron has a point. It's all very well dismissing him as pushing "project fear", but there are real issues which have to be settled and agreed with 27 member states, all within a period of two years – unless someone feels brave enough to rely on unanimous agreement for an extension.

This, of course, is where the noise-makers are increasingly being caught out. They don't actually know what they want. They've never set out the details and they haven't a clue what it will take to get an agreement. All they can do is fall back on the mantra that EU Member States will want a deal, without any ideas of how to achieve it.

With that, there is no real need for "project fear". The noise-makers are creating a huge vacuum of expectation, allowing Mr Cameron and his remainers to ask them, quite reasonably, to supply some of the detail.

The embarrassing silence that follows tells its own story. Soon, there will be a low murmur, building steadily to a crescendo, recognisable to anyone who has spent any time with battery hens. It will be the sound of chickens coming home to roost – or maybe just Mr Cameron laughing.

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