Anna Soubry, Nick Clegg and Chuka Umunna in single market warning to ministers

Posted On: 
28th November 2016

Three leading pro-EU MPs have warned the Government not to “cherry pick” different segments of the economy for special trade agreements with the European Union after Brexit.

The UK voted to quit the European Union by 51.9% to 48.1%
Credit: 
PA Images

Former Tory minister Anna Soubry today teamed up with former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and Labour’s Chuka Umunna to stress the importance of single market membership to all sectors of the economy.

Speaking at an Open Britain event, the politicians warned ministers against pursuing a so-called hard Brexit that would see the UK leave the single market and the customs union.

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They cited a report from the Centre for Economics and Business Research that claimed every wealth-creating sector would be negatively affected from quitting the single market, and said 3.25 million British jobs are directly or indirectly linked to trade with the bloc.

The report warned manufacturing would “certainly suffer significantly” if there are tariff barriers to EU trade, and creative industries would suffer a “body blow” if there were strict controls on immigration.

The report also cautions that focusing on the interests of certain industries “cannot be achieved without the risk of creating 'losers' through reduced access and reduced future mutual benefits”.

"Although it might seem theoretically possible to cherry pick a number of sectors and negotiate trade agreements for the sectors, there is considerable linkage between the sectors," the report said.

"It has taken a quarter of a century to negotiate the single market as it exists today and could take nearly as long to renegotiate a new arrangement on a sectoral basis."

'NO INEVITABLE OUTCOMES'

Ms Soubry once more confirmed she would not vote against the triggering of Article 50 if MPs vote on initiating Britain's exit from the EU.

But she said June's referendum did not provide ministers with a mandate to pursue a hard Brexit as they prepare to enter negotiations with European counterparts.

She said: “Today we are posing a challenge to those who want the UK to leave the Single Market. Those who talk of a new trade deal – like Canada’s but better – as if the benefits would be comparable to Single Market membership and easily achievable.

"They say we can end free movement; stop making any financial contributions; and be free from the jurisdiction of the ECJ, yet continue to enjoy the same terms of trade we have today.

"There are no inevitable outcomes. There is no mandate for one particular Brexit option. The only question on the ballot paper was whether to leave, which we will, but how we execute our extraction must be debated.

"The best future for Britain’s economy lies within the Single Market."

Labour MP Mr Umunna said: “Every major sector of our economy is linked to the single market and could be harmed through an arrangement that prioritises one sector over another.”

And Mr Clegg added: "It is incumbent on all those who want to leave the Single Market to tell us which parts of the EU’s market framework they will refuse to comply with and to be clear about the impact on free trade access."

'MAXIMUM TRADE FREEDOM'

The Centre for Economics and Business Research report analysed the consequences of leaving the single market in favour of a free trade agreement on a bespoke basis for individual sectors.

A spokesman for the Department for Exiting the EU said: "The Government has been clear that we want to give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate in the single market - and let European businesses do the same here.

"But we have also been clear that the UK should make its own decisions on controlling immigration and the authority of EU law should end.

"It's not in the UK's interest to give a running commentary on our thinking that could undermine our negotiating position."