Eu: Withdrawal and Future Relationship (Motions)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:06 pm on 27th March 2019.

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Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Chair, Education Committee 6:06 pm, 27th March 2019

I passionately believe that we have to follow the 2016 referendum result, even though I voted remain. I voted for the triggering of article 50, to keep no deal on the table, against a second referendum and against a long delay to our exit date. My voting record in Parliament reflects the will of the British people because I feel that anything else would lead to huge mistrust in our political system.

I also believe that Parliament and politicians are becoming toxic. The 17 million people who voted to leave think that the establishment is against them, too busy playing party politics and determined to stop Brexit, so I would not do anything—and I mean anything—that I believe would undermine the decision of the people who voted to leave. I want a strong Brexit, a workers’ Brexit and a Brexit that unifies our country. How do we achieve that? Through Common Market 2.0 and membership of the European Free Trade Association. We would be out of the political union of the EU, out of the common agricultural policy, and out of EU rules on home affairs and taxation. We would be out of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. But, as EFTA members, we would have access to the single market, thereby safeguarding our businesses and jobs.

As my hon. Friend George Eustice pointed out, it is worth remembering that the British founded EFTA in 1959, when Harold Macmillan signed the Stockholm convention. The Chancellor at the time, Derick Heathcoat-Amory, said:

“We wanted to be able to share in the prosperity that a great single trading unit would bring with it”.—[Official Report, 14 December 1959;
Vol. 615, c. 1057.]

Our joining would be welcomed by member states—by the Icelandic Foreign Minister and by the Norwegian Prime Minister—and it has been reported that the EFTA court president has said that EFTA membership would solve the problem of the Irish backstop.

On freedom of movement, with EFTA membership, we would take back control, because articles 112 and 113 of the EEA agreement would provide us with important safeguards, allowing Britain to

“unilaterally take appropriate measures” in the event of

“serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties”,

or on grounds of public policy, security or health, in the case of workers.

It is wrong to think that we would be rule takers. My hon. Friend Nick Boles highlighted that Norway and Iceland alone have derogated from 400 EU Acts between them and how Norway has declined to implement the postal services directive. As members of EFTA, we would be part of the EFTA court, which is a guidance court, not an authoritative court in the same way the European Court of Justice is. The customs arrangement on our side would be temporary until we were able to solve the issue of the frictionless border, and then we would have full EFTA membership and be able to do trade deals, as other EFTA members have done.

The Common Market 2.0 is also a Eurosceptic Brexit. Many Eurosceptics over the past few years have supported the Norway option—even UKIP tweeted in support of it. Dan Hannan has supported EFTA in the past. Douglas Carswell has supported EFTA in the past.