Ten facts about the EEA
1. The “EEA” (or as it is better known “the single market”) is not the same as the EU. It is not an EU institution, nor is it governed by the EU. Its policies are decided by a joint EU/EFTA council, policy disputes decided by the ECJ and trade disputes decided by the EFTA Court. If we left the EU but did not join EFTA, trade disputes by default would be decided by the UK’s domestic court – not the ECJ.
2. The EEA is a pan-European free-trade zone governed by international legal norms which Margaret Thatcher came-up with to assist and improve free trade across the continent, starting with the Single European Act in the 1980s, was formalised with the EU internal market in 1992 and then became the “EEA” when (in 1994) a new, non-EU treaty, established under international, non-EU law came into force to allow non-EU member states to join the market.
3. The UK Parliament gave the UK Government prior permission to join the EEA via the EEA Act . If the UK Government wishes to remove us from the EEA then it must by convention and law seek Parliamentary permission to do so – something Miller v SSEEU will most likely reaffirm.
4. The UK, like every other signatory, is a signatory in its own right, as well as via either the EU or EFTA. Our membership does not derive only from our membership of the EU, but also from our status as a contracting party in our own right.
5. Therefore, leaving the EU (or EFTA) does not mean leaving the EEA automatically because contracting parties to the EEA are members in their own individual right (ironically at the insistence of the UK Government) and to leave the EEA requires a separate act of withdrawal – the triggering of Article 127 EEA . Confusion over Article 126 of the EEA Agreement  arises because it is believed the word “territory” refers to the member states. However (a) the norm in these circumstances would be to use “member state” and not territory and (b) the purpose of the clause is to assist those states with diplomatic “dependencies” for which the member state is responsible, yet which are not part of the EEA Agreement to be easily definable to prevent dispute.
6. The EU does not “impose” its rules on non-EU states. Every non-EU state which is a member of the EEA has a “say” (ranging from consultation up to and including the right to veto”) any legislation which is proposed by either EFTA or the EU. Any legislation coming out of the EU is subject to a co-decision mechanism meaning it can simply be vetoed by any EFTA state.
7. By my estimation Norway (a non-EU member of the EEA) incorporates about 17% of EU regulations. Nigel Farage says Norway incorporates about 9% of EU “rules” (presumably a combination of regulations and directives). However, the idea that Norway has to follow every “diktat” of Brussels is, as Matthew Elliott (CEO Vote Leave) stated in “Change or Go” (published by Business for Britain) wrong in both the fact that there is no diktat and wrong in that only a relevant proportion are followed – and only those which benefit Norway for whom over 70% of its exports go to the EU. Since only 40% of UK exports go to the EEA, when we leave the EU, we will probably have to absorb fewer EU regulations and directives than Norway.
8. Norway does not “pay into the Brussels budget”. It makes grants to poverty alleviation projects in Southern Europe which it decides the beneficiary of, and which it implements. Brussels never sees the money as Oslo “dictates” who receives it.
9. On the issue of “free movement”: Under the EU treaty, we have “free movement of people”. Under the EEA treaty we should have “free movement of workers” which is mirrored in the EEA treaty – and I think the intent is the same because the EU states regard this as fundamental (for political reasons – breaking down borders, harmonisation, countering nationalism etc). However what is clear is de-facto EEA states have more latitude in having wider enforcement of the derogation from the freedom – for example, Liechtenstein has near full border control via quotas. I see this not as an exception but as a precedent as the issue with Lichtenstein is population density and economic migration, which is identical to what the UK has to struggle with. Given that what Germany sees as “we welcome new comers” is greeted by Poland, Slovakia, Greece and Spain as a “brain drain” I suspect the days of “free movement” are numbered, but outside the EU and inside the EEA, we have a model to follow which would give us near full border control by using the derogation.
10. The EEA is outside the EU customs union – so like Norway we would be 100% free to make trade deals with non-EEA/EU states without interference from Brussels, whilst having the convenience of no-tariff, bureaucracy free trade with 500m consumers accounting for 25% of global GDP, £12trn GDP and 40% of our exports.