One of the more interesting conversations regarding the EU focussed on us 'becoming like Norway'. The reasons for this apparent desire to become a Scandinavian state rather than another star on the US flag or a federal member of the EU interested me greatly, so I asked them to tell me more.
And they did.
Apparently leaving the EU and being like Norway would save us 'billions' and because 'everyone' would want to trade with us our exports would rise and we would, once more, become a sovereign nation.
To become like Norway would mean that we have negotiated trade agreements such that we would have continued access to the single market that is the EU, but of course that's not a done deal and 'negotiate' is an interesting word in this context. But if Norway can do it, why can't we - perhaps there is mileage in this tack.
Another cherry on the cake is the fact that Norway, being outside the EU but trading with them is not subject to EU laws on matters of justice or home affairs and they are no bound by the agricultural policies of the EU laws on areas such as agriculture, justice and home affairs - all of which adds to the positives regarding this proposal.
But of course there's always another side of the debate and it seems that were we to leave we would still be bound by most of the EU laws and directives because we are trading with the EU but would have no ability to influence them - they would merely be handed down to us.
Not only that but the ECJ and ECHR (European Court of Juestice and the European Court of Human Rights) would still be exactly as they were with regard to laws and judgements as they are now with us as members of the EU because they are nothing to do with the EU! This means that pretty much all of the claimed regained sovereignty benefits would be in people's heads and hearts rather than something tangible and concrete - and my conversant's claim that, "We would be free from the working time directive" is also not true either!
Superficially this 'becoming like Norway' thing sounds like a win-win situation but of course that's because of the superficial! Once we get into it we find that we will still need to negotiate new trade deals and I have a nasty feeling that many of the EU nations who have to tolerate and buy from us now might just be a little tardy and perhaps a lot obstructive with regard to terms - after all, there is the US-like issue of protectionism to be considered and there are many European manufacturers keen to rape our export market with regard to replacing them with their own EU manufactured goods.
As for sovereignty, this I fear comes at a price for, outside of the EU, we become less of an important partner for the US in terms of NATO and the like and we will perhaps be signing up to become equally important and influential as Norway - not something the xenophobes and jingoistic post- empire little Britain types would relish I'm sure.
So whilst liking this as a proposal I have to say that we won't be gaining much in the real sovereignty stake but might be losing more as we confirm our small offshore island status to the rest of the world. Let's not kid ourselves regarding 'special status' and 'importer of choice' positioning - as much as I dislike the EU, we are in it and are an influential part of it (some Europeans I know say we (and Germany even more so) are too powerful) and to lose that might be to enter a one-way street to anonymity and the acceptance that neither EU or Commonwealth or the States have much time for us.
Better to be small and insignificant rather than to exist as part of Europe?
Oh yeah, seems immigration, which is what the majority of those who want to leave try to hide as being their real reason for an exit, would decrease - but only because no one would want to come to our piddling little island - so that's another win for the xenophobes innit?
Not as straightforward as I'd like all the EU stuff - two sides to everything as usual and the posturing, personalities and lies aren't helping us :-(
PS the same pretty much applies to becoming like Switzerland and other places - and since we stuffed EFTA when Sailor Ted (Heath) conned us into Europe, not sure the kettle's on there either!
Sadly all I've seen so far, to be brutal, is xenophobia and closet racism neatly packaged as being about issues over sovereignty, borders and trade - all getting tiresome.