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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:22 am on 7th February 2018.

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Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge Conservative, South Suffolk 10:22 am, 7th February 2018

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gapes. I will follow my hon. Friend Paul Masterton in being as brief as I can.

To my hon. Friend the Minister, I say that I, like most of my hon. Friends, want the Prime Minister to achieve a successful, bespoke deal, but the clock is ticking. To put it bluntly, levels of agreement are not optimal on the internal flank. I hope he can answer one question: if EFTA-EEA is such a bad idea, why are its four constituent countries among the richest and most successful on the face of the planet?

This is not project fear. We talk about hypothetical scenarios, such as what would happen if we left without a deal or under a soft or hard Brexit, but those countries are out there in the real world, not gazing at their navels, but negotiating trade deals and making a success of a trade bloc that we created with them in 1960. They have found a way to be sovereign countries, to deal with the huge behemoth of the European Union on their borders and to somehow retain that combination of prosperity, security and, yes, sovereignty.

Back in Westminster, we are in a hypothetical realm where we keep talking about all the possibilities that may emerge. If one were to be hypothetical and ask, “What deal could we possibly construct on which we could conceivably unite as a country?” it would have to do the following. It would have to please those on the Brexit wing by enabling us to negotiate our own trade deals from day one of leaving. EFTA does just that. For the Mayor of London, who wants us to stay in the single market, for the Scottish Parliament, which also wants us to stay in the single market, and for the many of us who think that that would be right for the City of London and services, we would have to stay in the single market. In EFTA-EEA, we stay in the single market. For everyone, there would have to be a control on unsustainable migration. In EFTA-EEA, we have the control that should migration surge again, article 112 and, importantly, article 113, which guarantees our right to negotiate free movement, would apply and have applied in practice in the real world.