The Prime Minister’s deal is a bridge to nowhere. Common Market 2.0 offers a clear, stable & exciting future outside EU. It safeguards jobs and workers rights, offers new controls over free movement, would mean leaving the European Court of Justice, Common Fisheries Policy and Common Agricultural Policy, and it would remove the need to ever activate the Irish backstop. Let’s get behind this strong compromise!
It has now been 67 days since the Prime Minister delayed the meaningful vote in December—67 utterly wasted days for our country. As the clock ticks down to 11pm on 29 March, the Prime Minister continues the pretence that she is seeking concessions from the EU, but she knows that she is not going to get them. We all know her reckless game: keep that clock ticking down and keep bullying MPs into backing her deal or get no deal. But we all know that this is a false choice, as our country is simply not prepared for a no-deal scenario.
The Government’s failure to reach out and build cross-party consensus has left us in deadlock, so how do we unlock this logjam? Well, the answer has been hiding in plain sight and it is called common market 2.0. Common market 2.0 would mean joining Norway outside of the EU but inside the European Free Trade Association and the EEA; establishing a form of customs union with the EU; and maintaining a close economic relationship with the EU, but leaving the more political aspects of European integration. Common market 2.0 would involve leaving the withdrawal agreement precisely as it is while radically recasting the political declaration on the future relationship—something that the EU has repeatedly said it is open to doing. The Leader of the Opposition’s letter to the Prime Minister on 7 February was certainly a step in the right direction, but it is vital that we put more flesh on the bones by making an explicit commitment to joining the EEA via the EFTA pillar.
The Prime Minister’s political declaration is a bridge to nowhere. Common market 2.0 would transform the political declaration into a bridge to a clear, stable and exciting future for our country. It would mean safe- guarding jobs; guaranteeing workers’ rights; providing new controls over freedom of movement; allowing more money for public services, as our contributions to the budget would be significantly lower; taking the UK out of the common fisheries policy, the common agricultural policy and the jurisdiction of the ECJ; and eliminating the need for the Irish backstop. That last point is crucial given that it is dominating the debate, so let me explain why our proposals would remove the need ever to activate the backstop.
The fact is that a customs union alone will not solve the Irish border question because only 20% of the issues surrounding the border are customs issues. The remaining 80% are single market regulatory alignment issues. That is why we need both full participation in the single market and a strong customs union arrangement in place, at least until alternative arrangements can be agreed. But, as Brexiteers understandably ask, why would a form of comprehensive customs union be so infinitely preferable to the backstop? They say that it would not solve the problems around sovereignty and conducting trade deals. Well, here is what they are missing: article 127 of the EEA agreement means that we can leave the EEA unilaterally with a one-year notice period. Given that 80% of the Irish border issues are single market issues, common market 2.0 would completely change the dynamics of our relationship with the EU and give us far more leverage in the negotiations.
We desperately need a Brexit that begins to reunite our deeply divided country Common market 2.0 is a strong compromise, and I believe that Parliament is ready to support this sensible, pragmatic, bridge-building approach. Brexit is a monster that is eating our politics, and it is time for us all to rediscover the lost art of compromise. It is time for common market 2.0.