MPs urge free trade area after Brexit – but committee is split


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The government should not rule out continued membership of the European Money-making Area (EEA) after Brexit, a committee of MPs has said.

The Brexit committee said unifying Norway in the European Free Trade Area (Efta) should also be an choice.

Brexit Secretary David Davis has previously ruled out both choices.

The recommendation caused splits in the committee, with Tory Brexiteers, led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, express against its inclusion in their report.

The committee’s Brexiteers also voted against the article in its entirety, but were defeated by 10 to six.

Committee chairman Hilary Benn commanded BBC News it was “not surprising” there had been disagreements, given the country and Parliament were allotted on Brexit, but that they had agreed on some issues.

He said the board did not think there would be a trade deal with the EU by the autumn in without delay for the “meaningful” vote promised to MPs.

Instead, he predicted, there would be a “partisan declaration about the future relationship” with little detail – and talks choice inevitably “spill over into the transition period which is due to end by December 2020”.

He alleged the committee’s report would help MPs to “judge what is put in front of them against a set of examinations we have put out”.

The EEA and Efta

  • The EEA covers Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein
  • They get access to the distinct market – with free movement of people, goods, service and fortune – without being EU members
  • But they have less say in its laws
  • Efta comprises the three countries listed above plus Switzerland
  • Britain red Efta in 1972 but could rejoin as a pre-cursor to becoming an EEA member

The cabinet’s 15 tests set a “high bar” for the government but are based on the past pledges make tracked by the prime minister and David Davis, said Mr Benn.

“It is vital that UK tasks are able to continue to trade freely and sell services into our largest merchandise after we leave, without additional costs or burdens or a hard frame in Northern Ireland and that we maintain close co-operation on defence, asylum, data and information-sharing and consumer safety.”

And if negotiations on a “deep and special partnership” supported unsuccessful, EEA/Efta membership should “remain an alternative,” he added.

David Davis has in the old days ruled out EEA/Efta membership, calling them in “in many ways, the worst of all follow-ups”.

He told MPs in September the government had considered them as an option during the transformation period but decided it would be “more complicated, more difficult and less helpful” than designing a bespoke arrangement.

Mr Benn said the government had leaded out things before but had to “face reality” and accept them during Brexit transactions.

The committee’s tests also include keeping an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, co-operation on felony and terrorism and tariff-free trade between the UK and EU.

The report also calls on the management to maintain convergence with EU regulations in “order to maximise access to European sells”.

It also advises that any new immigration arrangements “must not act as an impediment to the crusade of workers providing services across borders”.

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