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Fresh Brexit committee split over 'Norway-style' trade proposal

3 min read

A fresh row has erupted between MPs on the Brexit Select Committee after its new report said Theresa May should not rule out a Norway-style deal with the EU.

Senior eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg said his own committee was trying to "stop Brexit" while chair Hilary Benn said he aimed to help colleagues when it comes to voting on the final deal.

The new report urged the Government to consider negotiating continued membership of the European Economic Area, which would leave the UK subject to EU rules but with no say on their implementation.

It also suggested membership of the European Free Trade Area should be left open, which could serve as a precursor to EEA membership.

Both options have been previously ruled out by Brexit Secretary David Davis.

But the controversial report has split the committee, with Leave-backing MPs voting against the recommendations and against the report in its entirety - although they were defeated.

Mr Rees-Mogg, who as well as serving on the committee is chair of the powerful European Research Group of Tory Brexiteers, lashed out at the report.

“The ExEU Select Committee report is another effort by Remainers to reverse the result," he declared.

"The High Priest of Remain have pushed through another report that seeks to overturn the referendum result by stealth.

“Select Committee reports are only of any value when unanimous, divided ones have no effects.”

In a series of tweets, the arch-Brexiteer fumed that the proposals would leave the UK a “vassal state” and accused the Select Committee of trying to re-fight the referendum, signing off the tweets "#remoanathon".

Fellow committee member Peter Bone said the report was “driven by Remainers pursuing a political agenda”.

“It takes into account the evidence that suits their agenda and ignores the evidence that does not. As a result it is pretty worthless”, he added.

But Committee Chair Hilary Benn said it was "not surprising" there were disagreements and insisted the report was designed to help parliament.

The report sets out key tests against which the final Brexit deal should be compared, including benchmarks on immigration, security, border arrangements and access to markets.

The tests are based on the Prime Minister’s pledges but that they set a “high bar” for judging the finished deal, Mr Benn said.

"It is vital that UK businesses are able to continue to trade freely and sell services into our largest market after we leave, without additional costs or burdens or a hard border in Northern Ireland, and that we maintain close co-operation on defence, security, data and information sharing and consumer safety,” he explained.

He added: “And should negotiations on a ‘deep and special partnership’ not prove successful, we consider that EFTA/EEA membership remains an alternative which would have the advantage of continuity of access for UK services and could also be negotiated relatively quickly.”

It comes after a previous report by the committee sparked a row in April when it suggested the two-year Article 50 period could be extended to help the UK prepare for Brexit.

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