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

My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. It is certainly true that a number of the EFTA states have those bilateral arrangements, but it is important to note that even if EFTA members were to welcome us back—as the hon. Member for Glenrothes pointed out, that is not a certainty—we would not have immediate or automatic access to their 27 FTAs. Our entry into each one would need to be negotiated individually with the third countries involved. That process would take time, with no guarantee of success. EFTA is not an off-the-shelf model that would deliver ready-made trade deals, as some have suggested. Instead, as I said earlier, leaving the EU offers us an opportunity to forge a new role for ourselves in the world: to negotiate our own trade agreements and to be a positive and powerful force for free trade. As Members know, we are committed to delivering continuity in the EU’s existing trade relationships with third countries.