Could Britain ever truly be free of the EU?

Iceland is one of the 'independent' nations often held up as an example of what it's like on the outside of the EU Credit: ITV News

It is talked of so often these days, it is a wonder we don’t take its implications a lot more seriously.

Twenty-five years ago, Eurosceptics were a noisy minority within the Tory Party and certainly within the populace at large. Now it is hard to avoid the conclusion that we may indeed be heading for the EU exit.

The former Tory Cabinet Minister Owen Paterson speaks directly of such a prospect this week, even going as far as to suggest we should actually begin negotiations to leave.

So what would life really be like on the outside?

Tom Bradby says being 'on the outside' is more complex than people might imagine Credit: ITV News

Absolutely fine, say the Eurosceptics. Indeed we would thrive.

Just look at little old Iceland, Nigel Farage said in his debate with Nick Clegg, trading up there all on its own, despite being a nation of only just over 300,000 people. If it can survive, surely we can too?

It occurred to me at the time that I heard this that I – and I suspect many others – had no idea what it was really like to be Iceland or Norway or any of the countries that carve out (apparently profitable) existences on the fringes of the European super-state.

Even while 'outside', the country still has to accept the vast majority of EU legislation Credit: ITV News
We can leave, but can we ever really be free? Credit: ITV News

So I went to Reykjavik to find out. And you can see the results on tonight’s On Assignment (after the ITV News at 22.30).

I won’t preview it too much, except to say that you might (or might not) be surprised to learn how complex a business being out can be.

As is often said; in order to remain part of the Economic Area and keep trade flowing relatively freely, they have to accept the vast bulk of EU legislation (some eight thousand pages a year) without any meaningful consultation in how it is drawn up.

They also have to accept the principle of freedom of movement of people, just exactly as we do.

So we can leave, but can we ever really be free?