The European Free
EFTA Side of the European Economic Area
Scotland should seek membership of the European Free
Trade Association side of the European Economic Area (EEA), and should
not apply to join the EU side. A considerable amount of nonsense has
circulated regarding the alleged disadvantages of membership of the
EFTA/EEA as opposed to the EU/EEA side. Commentators all too often
advance a catalogue of mythology that been
repeated far too often from hearsay alone.
Seldom does one see a reference to any sources, above all the Agreement
on the European Economic Area that came into force on 1 January 1994.
It is alleged that the EFTA states have to implement
EU regulations and directives with no say in their drafting. Apart from
the reality that no democratic government either would or could put
itself into such an untenable position, the allegation is utter
nonsense. Under the EEA Agreement, especially Articles 99 to 101, the
EFTA members have exactly the same rights as the EU side of the EEA, as
the following extracts show (since the Agreement predates the European
Union, read EU for EC):
Article 99: 1. As soon as
new legislation is being drawn up by the EC Commission in a field which
is governed by this Agreement, the EC Commission shall informally seek
advice from experts of the EFTA States in the same way as it seeks
advice from experts of the EC Member States for the elaboration of its
The EC Commission shall ensure experts of the EFTA States as wide a
participation as possible … in the preparatory stage of draft measures…
In this regard, when drawing up draft measures the EC Commission shall
refer to experts of the EFTA States on the same basis as it refers to
experts of the EC Member States. …the EC Commission shall transmit to
the …Council the views of the experts of the EFTA states.
disposes once and for all of the mythology that the EFTA states have no
say in the formulation of EU legislation, but there is more to it than
that. All the EFTA members of the EEA are represented individually on
its governing bodies, including the EEA Joint Committee, EEA Council,
EEA Court of Justice, etc., but its EU members are represented
collectively by the EU Commission.
same applies to the all-important "top table" of the World Trade
Organisation (WTO), to which the EU and EEA are subordinate. The EFTA
members retain their individual voices in the WTO, whereas the EU
members have only one collective voice.
this a seat at the "top table"? What happens when a collective EU
motion to the WTO represents the interests of France and Germany, but
runs diametrically counter to the interests of Scotland?
the voting power of a nation of 5 millions within a union of 500
millions, Scotland as an EU member would be in a position ten times
worse than the one we are presently with good reason trying to escape.
EEA financial commitments are laid down in Articles 115 to 117 of the
EEA Agreement, and are elaborated in protocols 38a, b and c. These
contributions are specifically for the reduction of economic and social
disparities between the EEA member states – a kind of development aid.
They are NOT contributions to the general EU budget.
the notoriously tight-fisted Swiss voters agreed by a substantial
referendum majority to pay them, for the privilege of staying out of the
been calculated, on the basis of the Swiss and Norwegian payments, that
Scotland’s contribution to the solidarity funds for weaker EEA member
states would be of the order of £200 millions annually.
contrasts with Scotland’s present payment to the EU, as part of the UK,
which in 2010 amounted to £845 millions and is steadily climbing due to
the meltdown of the Euro currency. By mid-2013 it seemed to be of the
order of £1,300 million annually, calculated on the basis of available
information. As an EU member state, independent Scotland’s net payment
would certainly be considerably higher than at present.
tiny fraction of our own money comes back to us as grants, although
these are all too often mendaciously represented as generosity on the
part of “Europe”.
to this is the loss of wealth creation capacity due to the EU Common
Fisheries Policy, which is now costing Scotland nearly £2,000 million
every year. The Common Agriculture Policy has been a similar financial
and social disaster.
equally important reason for switching to the EFTA side of the EEA would
be the reduction by around three quarters of the volume of EU
legislation that would have to be processed and applied in Scotland.
diplomatic and administrative time and expense involved in coping with
this flood of legislation is a serious economic factor that is proving a
considerable burden for smaller EU member states like Slovenia and
and Switzerland both implement EU regulations and directives that they
are not obliged to observe, but they do so voluntarily when this is seen
to be convenient or to have advantages for them. EU members have no
option but to fall into line.
is nothing to prevent Scotland in the EFTA side of the EEA from trading
with all 50+ European states, including the half of Europe that is not
in the EU.
Furthermore, all the Four Freedoms of the EEA Internal Market are
available to its EFTA members. As many Scots know from years of
commuting between Scotland and continental Europe, citizenship rights,
freedom of travel, health care, pension rights and the rest are all
guaranteed within the EEA, and not just the EU.
time for hard facts and reality to replace this mythology. We don’t need
the Euro catastrophe to convince us that all is not well with the EU
experiment. What we have to ensure is that Scotland is not sucked into
this disaster waiting to happen.