European Free Trade Association — [Mike Gapes in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 7th February 2018.

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Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Conservative, Wimbledon 9:30 am, 7th February 2018

As ever, my right hon. and learned Friend makes the point rather better than I can. It is absolutely clear that that is implicit and, based on the evidence we heard in the Treasury Committee, explicit in what the Government signed or agreed to at the end of phase 1 of the negotiations in December.

EFTA provides a great deal of flexibility, as we have explored in a number of interventions. It keeps open the option of joining the EEA agreement, which I think would be the right thing to do. However, it must be right that, as we leave the EU, we keep our options open. I say to the Minister in all sincerity that there is a lack of clarity over exactly what type of deal the Government want. We talked about CETA and beyond, and as I said a moment ago, CETA is the most advanced trade agreement that the EU has yet signed with a third country. I understand that the Government want to go beyond that, but the clock is ticking, and in trying to spend a huge amount of time carving out a middle ground between CETA and the EEA, the chances are that we may end up with nothing at all, or with something well below the Government’s ambitions.

It seems to me that an EFTA-style EEA relationship—the Norway option—could be achieved rapidly and will go much further than CETA goes at the moment. That is a route we could pursue for the UK’s best interest, and it must not be allowed to be dismissed without proper analysis and consideration.