Volume 22 (2016)

Volume 22 (2016) / Issue 1

Ciarán Burke, Ólafur Ísberg Hannesson, Kristin Bangsund, 'Life on the Edge: EFTA and the EEA as a Future for the UK in Europe' (2016) 22 European Public Law, Issue 1, pp. 69–96


The present article discusses the options open to the UK in the event that the proposed referendum on EU membership results in an ‘out’ vote. The case is presented that the preservation of established markets represents a desideratum, both for the UK, and for its EU partners, and that such a goal could be achieved – while removing the UK from many less popular areas of EU competence – by the UK immediately joining EFTA and the European Economic Area (EEA) upon its exit from the EU. The authors argue that the EEA model would represent a best-case scenario for the UK in the event of a ‘Brexit’, coupling the benefits garnered from the maintenance of the UK’s position within the Internal Market with a looser regulatory structure, while preserving established market relationships and economic stability, and allowing for greater freedom of action on the part of the UK government in areas not covered by the material scope of the EEA Agreement. The non-identical nature of EU law and EEA law is explained, with the absence of the twin doctrines of supremacy and direct effect presented as a means to restore the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty in Britain. The EEA legislative and enforcement mechanisms are also discussed, while the EEA model is favourably compared with the looser – yet vastly more complicated – bilateral arrangement governing Swiss-EU relations.  

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ISSN: 1354-3725
ID: EURO2016005