The actions of Parliament last week were a blow to the credibility of our democracy. We have signalled to the world that we are too scared to leave the EU without its permission, and we are about to send our Prime Minister to Brussels on her hands and knees to beg for an extension.
However, for those like me who voted to leave without a deal if necessary, it is no good sobbing over the fact that we lost a line-out and that those who want to thwart the referendum result are running away with the ball. We need to regroup and get back in the game.
We have been arguing about Brexit solidly for over three years now and our system cannot take another two years of this, especially if there is a long extension to article 50. What is needed now is a way to secure early closure on this debate and to expedite our departure from the EU.
There is a simpler and swifter way to get out of the EU. We should rely on our existing legal rights and obligations as a signatory to the EEA. The UK is a party to that agreement in its own right, and the Government took a conscious decision last year not to give twelve months notice to leave the EEA, as is required under article 127 of that agreement.
The first step would be to agree a stand-still arrangement with the EU, along the lines of the “Malthouse 2” compromise for a transitional period of nine months, during which we would give an undertaking to dynamically align all of our regulations, so that there would be no need for the EU to put in place border checks.
We would then immediately apply to join the EFTA pillar of the EEA agreement. Full EFTA membership would take six to nine months to complete, but joining the necessary surveillance and court agreements to make the EEA operable could be agreed within three months. The standstill agreement on regulatory alignment would become a bridge to somewhere (i.e: EFTA) rather than an open-ended continuation of this exhausting debate.