Eu: Withdrawal and Future Relationship (Motions)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:18 pm on 27th March 2019.

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Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge Conservative, South Suffolk 6:18 pm, 27th March 2019

Thank you for calling me, Mr Speaker. I am very much used to the time limit changing just as I rise to speak.

I campaigned to remain, but I promised my constituents that I would accept the result of the referendum that my colleagues and I voted into law. In my view, the best deal to do that is undoubtedly the one negotiated by the Prime Minister, with all the difficult squaring of circles that it has had to go through. I sincerely hope that we do agree to that deal. If we do not, we have to accept that, given no deal has been defeated twice in this place, we must have a deal that flexes one of the red lines—the single market and the customs union. I explained on Monday that the issue of free movement should not be as big a concern, because our immigration numbers will be the same; people will just come from further afield. The key issue is trade. If we go down the EFTA/EEA route, we would be outside the customs union, but we would keep the EU free trade deal, which is the single market.

If we were outside the EU but in the customs union, there would be a profound problem. What would happen when we wanted to do a trade deal with a country that the EU did not wish to conclude one with or was unable to do that? This is fundamental. Imagine if it were a key economic bloc such as China. If we wanted to negotiate a trade deal with the Chinese, we would have to wait for the EU to conclude its trade deal, which would take much longer and be far more complicated. The Swiss, whose fine EFTA country is in the single market but outside the customs union, negotiated, as long ago as 2013, an excellent trade deal with the Chinese that has given them billions of pounds-worth of trade in industrial goods and very strong access in services. This is the key point. There are many good reasons why we as a country could negotiate a trade deal with China that the EU could not, one of which is that we have a profound offer in services that is very different from the overall EU mix.

I think personally that we have to say to our people what are the benefits and opportunities of leaving. One of them must be to live up to our great history and heritage as the home of capitalism and free trade, and go back to trading around the world but with a close relationship with the European single market to fall back on. That works brilliantly for Switzerland and for Norway. In essence, it means leaving the political union and staying in the economic one. It is a very good deal. It is not as good as the Prime Minister’s deal, for all the reasons I have explained in previous speeches. However, at this moment in time, we have to decide whether we really want to deliver Brexit or not. If we are going to do so, and if it is not through the Prime Minister’s deal, which I hope we will vote on on Friday, there must a compromise, and the best one is that which plays to our strengths as a great free-trade nation.