Those who want the UK to stay in the current EU at all costs argue either that there is no alternative, or argue that any kind of trade based relationship outside would be worse. They say we would have no influence over the rest of the EU from outside. They say we would have to accept whatever rules and regulations they set for trade within their area. They conflate this with wider influence in the world.
Most of this is silly nonsense. The UK will never have the same relationship as Switzerland or Norway, the two cases usually trotted out. The UK is a much larger country, a much more important market for the rest of the EU, and above all a global power as a leading member of NATO, the Commonwealth and the UN security Council. The UK is in many global networks. The UK from these positions can both seek to influence and persuade others, and in turn is courted for her support.
The UK should begin its renegotiations with the rest of the EU with two simple propositions. The first is that the UK fully accepts the logic of the single currency. The UK will not stand in the way of Eurozone members completing a political union to complete their currency union, as long as the rest of the EU understands this necessitates a new and looser relationship for the UK. As the one large country that can never join the currency union for democratic and economic reasons, we need an honest analysis and new deal based on that obvious truth.
The second is that the UK wishes to remain or become again a national democracy, where the main decisions are taken by Parliament, and where the voters can change government, policy and the law at a General Election when they cease to please. This means the UK cannot sign up to irreversible EU laws. The UK may by agreement accept joint laws, but it must in important cases reserve the right to change its mind.
Once these two simple propositions are grasped, the rest falls into place. The UK may agree to common foreign policy actions, but we will always have a veto on whether to join in or not. The UK can discuss and see if there can be common cause on laws governing business, energy or whatever, but they will only be common all the time both sides still consent. UK exporters will of course meet EU requirements on all goods and services exported to the rest of the EU, just as they observe all US requirements on exports to the US. In some cases the UK will find it easier and better to have exactly the same rules for EU exports to us. In other cases we will have our own rules. They will all be compliant with World Trade obligations and be designed to promote freer trade.
If we take the one issue usually produced as an attempted show stopper, the 10% external tariff on car exports, I would expect both sides to agree not to impose such a tax in either direction. The UK will be a willing partner in measures which cut tariffs and other barriers to mutual trade.
The UK will have enhanced influence in the rest of the world as it will no longer have to submit to common EU positions in global talks on issues ranging from climate change to trade arrangements. With the EU the UK will have the clout of a major trade partner who imports more than she exports from the rest of the EU, and the status that one of Europe’s large and powerful countries will always have when leading European countries sit down to discuss many global and regional issues.