We have, for many months, been talking about the Prime Minister’s deal, the Irish backstop and the now defunct Brexit deadline of 29th March. Today, we must urgently take stock of where we are before Brexit itself is put at risk.
While I will continue to vote for the Prime Minister’s deal, it appears that it might still yet be voted down once again. Simply rejecting the Prime Minister’s deal, in the absence of an alternative, has left us in a state of Brexit purgatory. This purgatory risks us facing an unacceptably long Brexit delay or perhaps no Brexit at all. I do not support either of these options and the country will not either.
This is why we must look afresh at what Brexit deal can be passed and that is why this week is so important. If Parliament takes back control and begins the process of indicative votes, MPs will begin to debate and vote on the form of Brexit they want, rather than voting against the type of Brexit they do not want. For my part, I will be speaking in favour of and voting for Common Market 2.0.
Politicians, of all stripes, have now expressed support for the adoption of Common Market 2.0 as the way forward. Common Market 2.0 is the best way to deliver Brexit. It is a Norway-style deal that would see the UK leave the EU as soon as possible and one which would avoid the prickly issue of the Irish backstop.
Common Market 2.0 is the only viable Brexit deal, other than the Prime Minister’s, which could be agreed between the UK and the EU in time for us to leave the EU on 22nd May. Common Market 2.0 is the only Brexit deal, other than the Prime Minister’s, which would mean we needn’t stomach an unacceptably long extension to Article 50 or take part in the upcoming European elections.
In addition to leaving by the 22nd May, Common Market 2.0 would also enable the UK to avoid the dreaded Irish backstop. The EU have already said that they would be happy to negotiate a Norway-style deal. The institutions for this future relationship already exist and entry to them could be negotiated much more quickly than any other option. This would mean we could enter our new relationship by the end of the transition period thereby avoiding the backstop entirely.
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In addition to solving the backstop, Common Market 2.0 would give us the ability to make trade deals with the rest of the world. At first we would have to mirror our current customs arrangement with the EU to ensure a frictionless border in Ireland. But this would provide the breathing space to develop new arrangements which would liberate us to pursue new free trade deals with the rest of the world while guaranteeing no hard border on the island of Ireland.
Common Market 2.0 would deliver on the 2016 result by taking us out of the political institutions of the EU and the commitment to ever closer union. Most EU rules would not apply to the UK as we would be outside the common agriculture, fisheries, justice, home affairs, foreign and defence policies. We would also leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. Outside the EU but inside EFTA and the EEA we would be able to secure adaptations to new single market rules to ensure our future relationship works for us. Furthermore, under Article 112 of the EEA Agreement we would be able to trigger an emergency brake on free movement if exceptionally high levels of immigration had caused serious economic or social problems in the UK.
I don’t doubt that the Common Market 2.0 model is not everyone’s cup of tea. But as recently as 2016 an EFTA-style relationship was the preferred destination for many Brexiteers including Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Daniel Hannan. Common Market 2.0 would deliver Brexit, would protect our economy, would keep the United Kingdom united and would ensure that the UK is part of a prosperous alliance of European democracies. We should deliver it now.
Robert Halfon is the Member of Parliament for Harlow