Clearly the UK would want to keep such an agreement in the event of Brexit. The alternative would be the possibility of trade restrictions and customs duties between the UK and EU (or as explained here, the EEA European Economic Area).
The issue is that Free Movement Of People (FMoP) is a key aspect of free trade. It allows people to move to more successful economic areas. Just like they do around the UK, except around the whole EU/EEA.
That can provide all sorts of benefits. But a lot of people don't like FMoP. The relative success of the UK's economy means the UK has been a magnet for EU nationals, especially from the eastern bloc countries that have joined the EU in recent years. Brits have tended to stay in the UK, so "Net Immigration" has risen to potentially unsustainable levels. It's putting all sorts of strains on infrastructure such as schools, NHS and especially housing.
The question is whether a new trade deal can be done with the EU/EEA without FMoP as a core condition. John Redwood MP, a key Brexiteer, looked me in the eye last week at a EUref debate and said "Yes". Reasons commonly quoted are:
- The EU needs the UK more than the UK needs the UK. The UK would be in a strong negotiating position after a Brexit vote.
- Countries such as USA and Canada are going for a free-trade deal with the EU that doesn't involve FMoP. A precedent is being set.
- FMoP is a core aspect of the free market in Europe:
- Norway is a member of the EEA becasue it has accepted FMoP
- Switzerland does not have full free trade rights. A peoples' referendum there chose against full FMoP
- The UK is in a similar geographical position, not thousands of miles away like Northern America. I'd expect FMoP to be sacrosanct in a UK trade deal with the EU/EEA. Not least because to allow otherwise would set a precedent for other EU countries which would threaten the very existence of the EU.
- The recent re-negotiation with the EU, led by David Cameron, got nowhere on FMoP issues. I can't see Brexit making any difference to EU/EEA attitudes.
The people need to know.