Recent interventions into the Muslim world by Western powers post 9/11 have been characterised by one great failing. Whilst they have carefully planned and executed the military phase of the campaign, they have utterly failed to deal with the post conflict stage leaving behind failed states in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya as a result.
The Brexit campaign is in danger of doing the same thing if they do not sort out, very quickly, what their next moves are to be in the removal of the UK from the EU. Some might reasonably argue that they have already left it too late and these plans should have been clear before they ever went to war. Part of this failing – if indeed it does exist – might be because the politicians running the campaign didn’t actually think they ever stood a chance of winning. As a result they were making hostages to fortune throughout the debate and now have to find some way to reconcile the many different promises they made.
As an aside I should point out that exactly the same problem would have existed post a Remain victory although the consequences would probably have taken slightly longer to reveal themselves.
The biggest hostage of course is the question of freedom of movement and the inextricably linked issue of access to the single market. Dan Hannan has come in for some criticism over the last 24 hours for advocating the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) solution that would see very little change in the principle of freedom of movement but would, if developed properly, probably see drops in EU migration because of the restrictions placed on benefits. It is a position he has maintained resolutely throughout the campaign and I suspect is one reason why he was not used by Leave in most of the main events, in spite of being one of their most effective speakers.
Clearly there are a number of barriers to be overcome to achieve such an outcome. Three are of particular importance.
1. The electorate. Immigration formed the core of the Leave campaign and was almost certainly the reason they won. Opponents will rightly point out that there is no mandate for ignoring this issue and entering the UK into a post-EU settlement that does little or nothing to help control immigration. However, as I advocated before the vote, it is necessary for the new Government to legislate on behalf of all the electorate not just the 52% who voted for Brexit.
That means that already almost half of the population would probably be relieved with a solution that maintained the single market and freedom of movement. But what of those who voted Leave? We do have some indications of their views. A Yougov poll on 8th June showed that 42% of Leave supporters would prefer the EFTA/EEA route post-Brexit with 45% opposing. I would contend that this would indicate that overall there would be a clear majority of the country that would choose EFTA/EEA over complete separation from the Single Market.
2. Parliament. Whatever deal is brought forward has to get through both houses of Parliament. We know that the members of both houses were strongly in favour of remaining in the EU and I find it hard to believe that they would block the alternative that would assuage many of the concerns that were held about Brexit.
Both of the above points make a series of assumptions that would need to be firmed up prior to actually attempting a deal. As a result I believe that it would be necessary for the new Conservative Leader to make the case for EFTA/EEA membership and then put it to the electorate in a General Election after first having invoked Article 50. Imposing such a deal without being clear what the view of the British public is would be unacceptable and I seriously doubt anyone has the stomach for any more UK wide referendums in the near future.
Finally I mentioned three potential barriers to such a deal. The third of course is EFTA itself which is why I hope someone from the Leave campaign is already in discussions with Kristinn Árnason, the current General Secretary to discuss the attitude of the four current EFTA members to the possible arrival of a fifth member in the near future.