‘It’s like being in the EU without being in the EU.’ Photograph: Alamy
Name: Article 127.
Appearance: On the penultimate page of a 16,000-word document.
Status: Awaiting triggering.
This is that thing that we have to do to get ourselves kicked out of the EU, isn’t it? No, that’s article 50.
What’s the difference? Article 127 is a different article, from a different document.
What does it say? “Each Contracting Party may withdraw from this Agreement provided it gives at least 12 months’ notice in writing to the other Contracting Parties.”
Which agreement is this? The European Economic Area (EEA) agreement, which created a single market of EU states and three non-members: Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway.
So it’s like being in the EU without being in the EU. Sort of. EEA members sign up to the four freedoms of economic cooperation, including the free movement of people.
But that’s exactly the type of sensible financial arrangement we voted to walk out of for idiotic reasons that turned out not to be true. Indeed – staying in the EEA would constitute a Brexit so soft as to be virtually unnoticeable.
Wouldn’t leaving the EU mean automatically leaving the EEA? Depends who you ask. The government says it would. The thinktank British Influence says it wouldn’t and is seeking a judicial review.
Who’s right? To be honest, nobody knows, but some legal experts maintain there is no mechanism for leaving the EEA other than article 127. The resulting wrangle is certain to infuriate Brexiteers.
Do you have a handy example of that infuriation? “Rather than coming up with new legal wheezes to try to frustrate the will of the people,” said Dominic Raab MP, “these lawyers should be working with us to make a success of Brexit.”
Why doesn’t the government just shut up and trigger article 127? Because doing so might require an act of parliament, and parliament might not cooperate.
This whole leaving-the-EU business is turning into a huge faff, isn’t it? Almost more trouble than it’s worth. Yeah. I’m hoping people will just get bored and stop asking about it.
Do say: “Legally, we must cross every T and dot every I, even if it takes for ever.”
Don’t say: “The people have spoken – let’s work together to make Britain a proud and independent economic ruin.”