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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:30 am on 7th February 2018.

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Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe) 10:30 am, 7th February 2018

I note that Scottish Conservatives want to pooh-pooh the idea that 62% of the population of Scotland can just be ignored. My concern about EFTA is not that I do not like what it offers, but that it does not offer nearly as much as we have now. In particular, it does not involve membership of the customs union.

Switzerland does not have what it regards as a hard border with the European Union. Apart from its border with Liechtenstein, it is completely surrounded by land borders with EU countries, but most people travelling in and out do not notice anything like a hard border. Nevertheless, it estimates that approximately 2% of vehicle traffic is stopped and searched. Applying that model to the only land border that the United Kingdom will have with the European Union would result in 200 stop-and-searches a day near the border on the island of Ireland. That is simply not acceptable, and it cannot be allowed to happen.

Even the most favourable—or least unfavourable—scenario for leaving the customs union is likely to create significant security problems in Ireland. It is not just about having a hard border. We have an agreement on all sides that there will be no infrastructure on the Irish border, but it is very difficult for somewhere inside the customs union to have a border with no infrastructure whatever with somewhere outside it. There will be significant repercussions for the whole of Ireland if the United Kingdom leaves the customs union.