Indicative Votes: Common Market 2.0

When Parliament had it's opportunity to debate alternative Brexit deals, I set out the arguments for Common Market 2.0 in the House, as lead sponsor of the amendment. Common Market 2.0 brings together Leavers and Remainers, and three different parties. Common Market 2.0 can get us out of this crisis and reunite our divided country.

Stephen Kinnock: I thank the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) for his great work in making today’s proceedings possible. I rise to speak in support of motion (D) in my name and those of the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles) and other hon. Members.

This really is five minutes to midnight—for this Parliament, for this Government and for our country—and we desperately need to find a way out of this mess. Our country has spent two years tied up in knots by the Prime Minister’s incompatible red lines, which offered such a narrow interpretation of the referendum result. A 52% to 48% vote was certainly not an instruction for a disastrous no deal or for a hard, Canada-style, job-destroying Brexit. It was an instruction to move house, but to stay in the same neighbourhood.

The European Free Trade Association/European economic area model offers just such a possibility. It respects the referendum result without wrecking the British economy. Not convinced? Well, it is worth remembering what Nigel Farage told a “Question Time” audience in 2016:

“I hear people say ‘Wouldn’t it be terrible if we were like Norway and Switzerland?’ Really? They are rich, they’re happy and they’re self-governing countries.”

The right hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson), a passionate Brexiteer, told us in 2015 that

“only a madman would leave the market”,

and the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) has also been supportive of the single market in the past. The point I am making is that, in 2016, Euroscepticism meant something that it apparently no longer means today.

Mr Owen Paterson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

​Stephen Kinnock: I am sorry, but Mr Speaker has said we have very little time, so I am afraid I will not be able to take any interventions.

Today, Euroscepticism seems to mean setting off into the Brexit fantasy forest of unicorns and rainbows, yet in 2016 Euroscepticism meant simply being opposed to political integration, while cheerleading for the single market. That, in a nutshell, is what common market 2.0 is all about.

What does common market 2.0 require? First, it requires only a renegotiation of the short political declaration on the future relationship, which the EU has consistently told us it is open to amending. The reason why Labour politicians such as me have rejected the Prime Minister’s deal is the political declaration, not the withdrawal agreement. That is because the political declaration offers no long-term guarantee on workers’ rights and does nothing for the services sector, which is 80% of our economy. It is membership of the single market that delivers for workers’ rights and for the services sector. That point was made explicitly by Frances O’Grady of the Trades Union Congress just this morning, and also this morning by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, which was absolutely clear—it did not mince its words—that a customs union alone will not deliver on workers’ rights or on frictionless trade at our borders. Trade unions and business voices came together to make it abundantly clear that we need single market membership.

Under common market 2.0, we would maintain full participation in the single market through our membership of the European economic area by joining the EEA’s only non-EU pillar, the European Free Trade Association. We would add to this a comprehensive customs arrangement with the EU, at least until alternative arrangements to secure frictionless trade on the Irish border can be agreed via other means—for instance, new technology. The EU has indicated that this bespoke combination is available for the UK, given the need to preserve the Good Friday agreement.

A major strength of common market 2.0 is that it is by far the fastest viable route to Brexit. We could be in the EFTA pillar by the summer, and in a customs arrangement well before December 2020, removing almost all the risks of the unpopular backstop ever coming into play—unpopular particularly with some Members across on the Conservative side of the House.

There are very clear benefits to common market 2.0, not least that it delivers on what the majority of the British public actually want from Brexit. On the doorsteps in my Aberavon constituency and in those of my colleagues, we hear the same message time and again from our voters, particularly older voters: “We voted for a Common Market; we did not vote for all the political stuff”. Common market 2.0 continues our close economic relationship, but we would leave the EU’s political institutions, leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, leave the common agricultural and fisheries policies, and leave the EU’s drive towards ever closer political union.

We would see a marked improvement in our position on freedom of movement through the safeguard measures written into article 112 of the EEA agreement. These safeguards would give the UK a qualified but unilateral treaty-based right to suspend—

Mr Paterson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way, as he did name me?

Stephen Kinnock: I am sorry, but Mr Speaker has said that we do not have time for interventions.

Mr Paterson
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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The hon. Gentleman named me and I think it is a convention that the named Member can answer back. He used a quote from a television programme—

Mr Speaker: Order. I am sorry, but the right hon. Gentleman cannot make his point via a point of order. What he describes is customary, but not obligatory. It is not for me to say that people can or cannot intervene and I am not seeking to do so. I am just reminding the House of the time constraints under which we operate.

Stephen Kinnock: Thank you, Mr Speaker.

The safeguards give countries a qualified but unilateral treaty-based right to suspend freedom of movement if a country believes that it is suffering

“serious societal or economic difficulties.”

The measures in essence reflect what David Cameron tried but failed miserably to negotiate with the EU before the 2016 referendum. They would end the seemingly limitless nature of EU migration that concerns many voters.

It is often said that the UK would become a rule taker, but that is a ludicrously simplistic view. Under the terms of common market 2.0, the UK would leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and therefore end the principle of direct effect. That is because the EFTA Court that the UK would join respects national sovereignty in a way that the ECJ does not. New laws have to be approved by each nation and their national Parliament. It is also worth noting that we would have one in four EFTA Court judges rather than one in 28 EU judges, and that only one third of EU law applies to the EEA anyway.

We would restore policy-making powers in vast areas, including agriculture, fisheries, foreign affairs, security, justice and home affairs, and taxation. Although the EFTA states take on most single market rules, it is worth remembering that they enjoy the option to delay, adapt or derogate from any single market law or directive. Any decision to incorporate law must be unanimous, so that would give us not a vote in the EU process—because of course we are leaving the institutions—but a veto at national level. Norway and Iceland have derogated from EU law on more than 400 occasions.

The Norwegian Prime Minister has made it clear that her country is ready to facilitate our joining the EEA via the EFTA pillar. Michel Barnier has always said that a so-called Norway plus deal would work and that it had not been considered only because of the Prime Minister’s red lines.

Our common market 2.0 motion brings together leavers and remainers and three different parties. That breadth of support is extraordinary and unique. I am not sure that any other option has that spread of remain and leave opinion—certainly not revocation, a no-deal Brexit or a confirmatory vote. We need to find a way that not just unites the House on a solution that will get us out of the constitutional and political crisis, but begins to reunite our deeply divided country. It is time for British politics to rediscover the lost art of ​compromise. It is time for the House to support motion (D), and I genuinely hope that Members of all parties will join me in the Lobby to do so.