Playing Catch-Up

This recently published Guardian article describes how “Britain could retain access to the European single market and considerably more national sovereignty if it joins the European Free Trade Association (Efta)”. That is, according to the President of the EFTA Court.

The article notes that EFTA/EEA member countries participate in “decision-shaping” procedures, which have a considerable influence on EU rules at an early stage in the legislative process. The article also alights upon the fact that the EFTA Court is a separate entity to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and that, unlike the ECJ, the EFTA Court is not superior to national courts.

There is more.

However, the focus of this post is not the fact that several years after published Flexcit, and still more years after The Bruges Group published a pamphlet about The Norway Option, elements of the legacy news-media are beginning to reflect on the realities of EFTA and the EEA agreement.

The mistakes and omissions in the Guardian piece are arguably even more important.

Here I would remind readers that the Guardian is a commercial product, which attracts an audience, and thereby advertisers, at least partly on the basis of a brand that makes allusions to accuracy and open-mindedness. This is not the Sun or the Express or the Mirror. The Guardian is not a “comic”. The Guardian is a “broadsheet”; a so-called “quality newspaper”.

The article’s fourth paragraph reads as follows:

Efta currently consists of Norway, Lichtenstein, Switzerland and Iceland. Together with the EU member states they form a trading zone called the European Economic Area.

Obviously this is incorrect. The European Economic Area (EEA) agreement does not include Switzerland and terms like “trading zone” are best avoided in this context, if only because they do not really mean anything.

You know that, I know that, why then does the “Diplomatic Editor” of a national daily newspaper not know that?

Errors of this kind are regrettable at the best of times. But, for a senior journalist to be struggling with basic definitions nearly 18 months after the Tories won a general election on the back of a promise to hold an “In/Out” referendum—and six months after an historic vote for Britain to leave the European Union—is unforgivable.

This is not a small matter. People who know this subject do not make these kinds of mistakes. Understanding the differences between the EU, the EEA and EFTA is foundational.

There are complex issues to be resolved as part of leaving the EU. There is no time to waste hand-holding lazy hacks who have not put in the work. It is time to jettison the dead weight.

This was our referendum and our Brexit. We need to make the effort to inform ourselves and map a route to an acceptable destination. The current crop of politicians and the legacy press do not have what it takes.