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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:49 am on 7th February 2018.

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Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 10:49 am, 7th February 2018

The Government are ambitious about the extent of the trade agreement we can do with the EU. The EU has a number of trade agreements with other countries where there is mutual recognition and regulatory alignment, but not the absolute harmonisation of rules. I do not accept the premise of the hon. Gentleman’s argument.

I will not be able to cover all the comments, so I want to focus a little more on international trade. Members have asked why we do not plan to rejoin EFTA as a way of continuing our trading relationships with its members and trading with the wider world through the adoption of its existing free trade agreements. As I have already stated, EFTA has a network of 27 free trade agreements as compared with the EU’s 40 FTAs. While many of those agreements significantly overlap, EFTA agreements still focus on traditional areas of market access and therefore tend to be less comprehensive and more goods-focused than those of the EU. It is also notable that some EFTA FTAs specifically exclude trade remedies that the UK may seek to have as part of our independent trade policy. The UK is in many ways different from those countries.