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Mike Gapes MP makes the case for the UK to remain in the European Economic Area (EEA)

Mike Gapes MP made the case for the UK to remain in the European Economic Area (EEA) in a debate in the House of Commons on Monday 6th November.

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You can watch Mike's speech on here or read the speech below:

"It is a real pleasure to follow James Cartlidge He has made an excellent speech, and I want to hear more from him in the future.

I begin by taking on the claim that was made by some on the Government Benches that, somehow, a decision was taken in June 2016 to leave the European economic area. If that is the case, I have to ask why, in their submission in December 2016, the Government’s lawyers said:

No decision has been taken either to serve or not to serve a notice under article 127 of the agreement. Consequently, there is no decision which is amenable to judicial review.

No decision was taken because that decision has to be taken by the Government; it was not automatic. Therefore, this Parliament must have the final say about that matter.

I am not an advocate in any strong way of the proposal of my hon. Friend Stephen Kinnock. I am an unreconstructed remainer. I remain so, and I will fight to stay in the European Union. We have not left yet, but if—if—we leave, I will fight to get the best possible deal for our country.

There are problems with EFTA and the EEA: the arrangements do not cover agriculture or fisheries. Potentially, that is a massive problem for Northern Ireland, and it needs to be taken into consideration. As we have heard, the arrangements do not cover the financial sector and they do not deal with many problematic issues that we will have to confront if we leave the customs union. We need to have an EEA-plus arrangement rather than just an EEA one, as that will need other agreements alongside it. It may take time to negotiate those, and in the meantime, let us not go on a Gadarene rush over the cliff."

Interjection by Edward Leigh: "I am amused by the hon. Gentleman’s proposal to have an EEA-plus. Presumably, he can now tell us what will be the difference between being a member of the EU and being a member of the EEA-plus?"

"EEA-plus would relate to issues such as having an agreement on a common foreign and security policy, and an agreement on those matters that do not affect some of the EFTA or EEA countries because the UK is not Liechtenstein, Norway, or Iceland. We must have the closest possible relationships with our EU neighbours and partners on many issues to do with policing, security and defence. Having said that, the essence, which is the economic relationship, is fundamental, and a transition is better than a disaster. The disastrous crashing out of the single market with no deal, or a very costly bad deal, is not in our interests. As Michel Barnier, the EU’s negotiator, has said:

We don’t have time to invent a new model.

Why reinvent something when it is already there and when it can be taken up and built on to establish the security and the certainty that our businesses need in this transition period?

Interestingly, there is support for that view in an article by Wolfgang Münchau in the Financial Times today. He said:

Once the reality of a limited trade deal sinks in, we are left with only two logical strategies: either join the EEA, or go for a minimalist agreement and focus on making that work.

That seems to be the choice, and there are some on the Government Benches who, for ideological reasons, want a minimalist agreement. That is because they are not Brexiteers, but wrexiteers and they are prepared to bring down our economy and slash our public sector and our national health service. It will cost our public services billions if our economic growth is reduced and our economy is reduced. We will then suffer the consequences. We will also suffer the consequences of unpicked fruit and difficulties in the agricultural sector. All the major financial services companies, banks and American banks are already planning to move their headquarters from London to Dublin and their personnel from London to Frankfurt and Paris. Those things are happening even now before the decision is finally taken. Let us stop this insanity, act now and, at least, stay in the EEA."

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