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'Squabbling Ministers' must prioritise retaining full access to the single market

3 min read

Pat McFadden MP says to be pro-Single Market in a post-Brexit world, is "to be pro-investment, pro jobs, pro-workers and pro-decency at work."

Brexit means Brexit, says the Prime Minister.  Not exactly clear as this week’s communications chaos in the Government has shown.  So what kind of Brexit will we have?  There are a host of unanswered questions on trade, immigration, regulations, workers’ rights and many other areas.

At the heart of this is our relationship with the European Single Market.  Membership of this allows companies in the UK not only to export tariff free but to do so in line with a common set of regulations and rules.  And it gives our financial services passporting rights to operate throughout the EU. 

The Single Market certainly isn’t perfect.  It has some way to go to eliminate barriers to selling services as well as goods.  But it is deepening over time and membership of it makes it easy for UK firms to export.  And as well as having benefits for our own domestic firms it makes the UK a very attractive European base for companies from all over the world, be they Japanese car firms or American financial services companies.  These investments are worth billions to the UK.  They are responsible for the employment of hundreds of thousands of staff.  They make possible a decent life for working people up and down the country.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates membership of the single market is worth 4% of GDP.  And as it develops in the future in sectors such as telecoms, digital products and energy it could add many thousands more jobs.  No Free Trade Agreement in existence between the EU and another state gives as full access across goods and services as the single market does. 

But the single market is not just a market.  It’s about conditions as well.  It’s about decent commonly recognised standards, such as the workers’ rights enshrined in law and decent health and safety standards.  It’s also about good environmental standards that stop a race to the bottom.

So arguing for continued membership of the single market as part of our negotiations right now is to be pro investment, pro jobs, pro workers and pro decency at work.  This was recognised by the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell when he called for continued membership of the single market in a speech on 1st July.

It would be a real mistake for us to now change tack and call for rejection of the single market alongside David Davis and the right wing Brexiteers who are calling the shots in the Tory Government.

The Government has shown this week that it has many squabbling Ministers but no plan.  The first priority of the plan for those of us who want to maximise both employment and decency at work should be to continue to be to retain full access to the single market in the negotiations that lie ahead. 

Pat McFadden is Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East

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