#Brexit: Eris Industries backs the EEA Option

(Link to original blog post here.)

Being a lawyer-led company, Eris Industries has a bunch of legal knowledge in-house – more so than most software companies.

As such, we’re quick to form informed opinions about things. From our very early opposition to the #IPBill eighteen months ago to our pro-remain position on #Brexit, we take public positions on policy issues early.

Naturally we have thoughts on the EU membership referendum which occurred last week. You may have noticed that the people of the United Kingdom voted “Leave.”

A tremendous disappointment for British Business

Any way you look at the “Leave” vote, it is a huge disappointment for British business. Two years ago, Eris Industries had three employees who worked out of our homes. Today, we have 17, with our head office remaining for the moment in London, an office in Berlin, and a subsidiary operating from New York. Our team is French, Italian, Belgian, German, Swiss, English and Scottish. (American, Canadian, and South African, too.) We simply could not have assembled this team, and grown as we have, without the UK being a member of the EU.

We expect wailing and gnashing of teeth on this issue across London and the UK over the coming weeks and months. Because the British people chose this outcome, denial is not productive. Nor is it a choice. As democrats we must accept that we are dealing with an exit from the European Union.

But we can mitigate. British and global companies can, and should, start considering our options and work towards adopting a common position. In Eris Industries’ view, far and away the best option on the table is what the Adam Smith Institute calls the EEA Option.

Why Eris Industries supports the EEA Option

There are very sound business reasons to support this positon. As an information-age startup with a distributed workforce, when we started up in the UK, the UK’s membership of the single market made it easy for us to expand our operations on the continent with very little hassle. It’s always hard to find the right people. However, being able to hire in Germany, Belgium, and elsewhere meant we always managed to get our hands on the right candidates to help our business grow and expand into the world-leading blockchain technology provider we are today.

We and our employees benefit from the four freedoms, especially those of free movement of labour and capital. If these freedoms are taken away, new, innovative businesses that follow in our footsteps will be hamstrung by stricter immigration restrictions, tax regulations, and compliance obligations, as well as reduced availability of investor funds.

Freedom of movement is really the most critical piece. With it we can hire the best people Europe has to offer, and deploy them where we need them, when we need them, for as long as we need them to be there. Without it, our compliance costs would go up and we simply wouldn’t be able to get the right talent – because there simply isn’t enough of it concentrated in any one place in the European Economic Area. This includes London, which (as anyone in tech will tell you) is simply not the hub of global tech talent it fancies itself to be.

So you see, Brexiteers, freedom of movement is not merely about holidays in the south of France or a shorter queue at the UK border. To be blunt, without freedom of movement in the EU/EEA, British firms cannot compete effectively in global markets. The UK’s talent pool has proven far too small for our requirements.

Our conclusion is that the only compromise option that ticks the boxes in terms of business’ interests – from

  • free movement of labour, to
  • the single passport for financial services, to
  • tariff-free trade with the EU,

which is also palatable from the perspective of the Brexiters and the much-beloved Scots, is the EEA Option.

Why others should support the EEA Option

We therefore support the EEA Option (full paper here), emphatically. We would encourage others to do the same, for the following reasons:

  • Boris Johnson, Daniel Hannan, and Douglas Carswell – all free marketeers, each of whom are likely to have some say in what the outcome of the Brexit discussions are – have all hinted (or, in Carswell and Hannan’s case, expressly stated) that continued membership in the single market is desirable. This is an entirely sensible and prudent position to hold and is in the interests of British business. We should let them know we support this position, which will substantially mitigate the damage of Brexit to British business, as soon as possible.
  • A 48-52 defeat is not a mandate to withdraw from all trade relations with the EU and “go it alone” – the so-called “WTO Option” – but rather it is only a mandate to leave the EU. We owe it to the majority to leave, but they owe it to the (very large) minority to concede some middle ground. Compromise is hard, but needed, considering any exit will operate to unilaterally strip 16 million (!) British citizens, and British businesses, of EU citizenship and the rights and privileges we need, and are not keen to surrender.
  • British business must avoid hand-wringing and advocate in favour of settlement on the UK’s future status very quickly. As in today, as in right now. An “investment strike” is already underway. Deals are being abandoned, orders are being cancelled. Some of my former colleagues in the City have told me firsthand accounts of how their dealflow is drying up on account of #Brexit. Overcoming political paralysis to make a rapid decision in this direction will promote financial stability, inward investment, and London’s continued position as a financial services and innovation centre. Every day that there is delay will do further damage to London’s position.

We are therefore getting behind the #EEAOption and encourage the rest of British industry – tech, banking or otherwise – to get behind it immediately, vocally, and forcefully. We also recommend supporting and engaging with the think-tank community and their advocacy work in this area.

We sincerely hope you will join us.

Legal #Brexit

Just stumbled across this outstanding conference call from Allen & Overy last Friday. A must-listen:


“The EU is a very large law project. It has involved the creation of law, it has involved the harmonisation of law. It is my strong conviction that the legislation that will be needed to implement this decision, it is very important for this country that that legislation is cool, measured and rational. And that it does not bear the mark of rancour.”

“This is like a demerger. The biggest in history.”

#BREXIT: For the record

Just jotting a few thoughts down for my regular readers, to be expanded upon when time allows. There’s so much to unpack:

1. Not until the Fat Lady sings

Remain campaigners all said Brexit was a terrible idea. Within 12 hours of the result being announced:

  • Market turmoil galore. Equity markets – and hence values of pensions – reduced in value by trillions of dollars. Britain’s currency falls 10% in minutes. UK’s economy shrinks in size at such speed that it swaps places with France on the GDP league tables, falling to sixth in the world, in the space of a single day.  
  • Break-up of the Union mooted, with both Scotland and Northern Ireland making noises about independence and re-unification with the Irish Republic, respectively.
  • The Prime Minister resigns. Leader of the Opposition has no-confidence motion tabled against him. Britain’s EU commissioner resigns. 

You people were warned.

But it ain’t over till it’s over, and things have barely just begun. Being an EU citizen (in addition to being an American) I was firmly in the “Remain” camp. I believe in a united Europe and do not expect this referendum will be the last word on the matter.

Some Labour MPs have come out directly against the referendum and said they will attempt to use a majority in Parliament to block Brexit from taking place – since the referendum is not legally binding (and Parliament’s sovereignty is supreme). Other political parties, such as the Lib Dems, have rejected the referendum result and already said they will contest the next general election on a European unity platform:

Them’s fightin’ words. Speaking of which, the question of what the absolute worst-case scenario could be if the referendum result is ignored is already leading folks to some pretty dark conclusions:


2. The EEA Option / “Norway Option”

Is what I’ll be getting behind in the meantime, as the Adam Smith Institute is. Dan Hannan is expressly pushing for this, Boris Johnson and Douglas Carswell have both hinted at it; Nigel Farage opposes it completely. 

3. Get used to hearing the words “Article Fifty”

“Article 50” is a 250-word provision of TFEU which basically says “if a member state tells the Council it wants to quit, we’ve all got two years to sort it out and if we haven’t done it by then, ejection from the Union is automatic.”

Until the UK pulls the trigger on Article 50, legally, absolutely nothing about the country’s status in the EU has changed one whit. 

The fact that Article 50 has not been invoked leads me to believe it may never be invoked and that the #brexit may simply be grounds for renegotiating the UK’s position or a gradual transition into the EEA/EFTA, what is known as a “soft Brexit.”

Not my idea, but rather it’s David Allen Green’s:


This interpretation makes a ton of sense given Cameron’s tone in the run-up to the election. Chiefly, in Cameron’s own words:

Then there is the legality. I want to spell out this point very carefully. If the British people vote to leave there is only one way to bring that about – and that is to trigger Article 50 of the Treaties and begin the process of exit. 

And the British people would rightly expect that to start straight away.

The referendum happened; Article 50 was not triggered. Read into that what you will. Before you do, though, check out Green’s blog for more on this. Or this from the Guardian comments section: 

4. Scotland

Irrespective of the availability of the EEA Option I support calling a second Scottish independence referendum and will support the “Yes” campaign when that does inevitably occur.

I lived there for four years. It really is a different country. Their young people want it. Time to do it.

5. Northern Ireland

Being of Irish ancestry (two generations ago, Donegal), I support calling a border poll in Northern Ireland. If the Union is going to break up as a result of this, let’s pull the band-aid off in one go. 

6. City-States

I support #LondonIndependence / #Londependence in the event the EEA option is rejected.

I would also not object to places like New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago, which differ radically from their hinterlands,  being split off into politically distinct sub-units in the United States.

This idea is currently in vogue among the tech set. Meaning it’ll be in every household within 36 months. 


This is going to make for some very extremely interesting techno-political-legal blogging over the next 2 (more likely 5) years; all of the above involves planning the re-write of, and actually fucking re-writing, substantial portions of the English legal system.

I’m giddy. It is not possible for there to be a more exciting time to be an English lawyer.