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Senior Tory Says UK Should Rejoin Single Market To Ease Cost Of Living Crisis

2 min read

A senior Conservative MP has called on Boris Johnson take the UK back into the European Union's single market in order to help mitigate the ongoing cost of living crisis.

Tobias Ellwood, who chairs the defence select committee, said the Brexit deal negotiated by the government had left industry "strangled" by red tape, and that securing closer economic links with the bloc would help bolster the economy at a time of soaring bills and widespread inflation.

Ellwood, who is one of the 28 Tory MPs to have publicly called on Johnson to resign, urged the prime minister to pursue a Norway-style relationship with the EU.

Norway is not in the EU but has full access to its single market, meaning it enjoys low-friction trade with the bloc, by virtue of its membership of a trade group called the European Economic Area (EEA). A number of Conservative and Labour MPs campaigned for a Norway-style Brexit following the 2016 referendum, but staunch Brexiteers argued that it would undermine the UK's sovereignty.

Writing for The House, Ellwood said the government's decision to diverge from EU rules, or what was dubbed by some as a 'hard Brexit', had done significant damage to UK exporters.

"From the fishers who can no longer sell their Scottish salmon, to the farmers undercut by unchecked imports, to Cheshire cheesemakers running into £180 health certificates, even to the City which can no longer sell financial services to Europe, sector after sector is being strangled by the red tape we were supposed to escape from," said the MP for Bournemouth East.

He said that it would be "dereliction of duty" if ministers refused to reassess the UK's relationship with the EU, adding that how Brexit has turned out is not what "most people imagined".

Ellwood acknowledged that rejoining the single market would mean accepting some EU regulations, including the free movement of people. 

However, he argued that doing so would eliminate post-Brexit paperwork worth £7bn, bolster the economy and help mitigate the ongoing cost of living crisis, as well as resolve the Northern Ireland Protocol "at a stroke" and prove the UK's "European credentials" amid Russia's continued attack on Ukraine.

"In a nutshell, all these challenges would disappear if we dare to advance our Brexit model by re-joining the EU single market (the Norway model)," he said.

"Leaving this aspect of the EU was not on the ballot paper, nor called for by either the Prime Minister or Nigel Farage during the 2016 referendum. There was, however, much discussion about returning to a “common market,” which is exactly what I propose".

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