Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 5 February 2015


One of the options for this country is to leave the EU and join the European Free Trade Area (EFTA). Like Switzerland and Norway. Some people feel passionately about this – I know because I get many e-mails a week telling me.

Hopefully after the next election there will be a chance to put this burning issue to the test in a referendum and settle in one way or the other. There are good reasons to leave the EU – loss of sovereignty being one of them.
Some people also claim that if the UK left the EU we would have billions of pounds a year to spend on our health service.

I recently asked the House of Commons library (famously impartial and learned) to compare and contrast the contributions that Norway make per head of population to be in EFTA, compared to our payments to the EU. This is their response:

"Since 1994 the EFTA states have made financial contributions to the EU in two ways. Norway, which by virtue of its relative size provides the vast majority of EFTA contributions, provided £524m in 2011, or £106 per capita. This compares to the UK's net budget contribution that year of £8.1bn, or £128 per capita. If the UK left the EU and instead contributed to the EU budget on the same basis as Norway, its contributions would fall by around 17%."

Basically, Norway pays £106 per capita to be in EFTA and we pay £128 per head to be in the EU. A difference of £22 per head. In other words, if we come out of the EU and go into the Free Trade Area instead, we would save £22 per head. I accept that this would have to be negotiated and we might be able to secure a better deal. Or worse.

So there would not be billions to spend on other things if we hop from EU to EFTA, far from it. And we would still have to comply with all of the rules of the free market, as Norway does, but without anyway of influencing what those rules are as we can today.

I have no doubt that if we left the EU we would be welcomed into EFTA. The Germans would still want to sell us their cars and the French their wine, tariff free. That is not the point. The issue is, would we be any better off?

A modest saving at best.

posted by Gary @ 09:17