As the Commons debates the EU Withdrawal Bill, Molly received confirmation from Michael Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, that membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) together with a customs union arrangement is a possible model for the future EU-UK relationship. The Labour leadership together with some Labour MPs, including Bristol West MP and Labour whip Thangam Debbonaire, have claimed the Party could not support the Lords EEA amendment as it would rule out the UK being part of a customs union. However, Mr Barnier confirmed in person to Dr Scott Cato that this option, that he has previously referred to as ‘Norway plus’, is totally feasible. Molly said:

“The decision by the Labour leadership to whip its MPs to abstain on a cross-party amendment on EEA membership is deeply flawed. To block this sensible amendment on the pretext that joining the EEA prevents the UK being in a customs union with the EU is just plain wrong. Michael Barnier has made this clear to me personally today. This is something the Labour leadership could and should have confirmed with Mr Barnier for themselves.”

“It is clear Tory rebels will not support Labour’s alternative amendment on ‘full access to the internal market’, which is anyway unrealistic. The EU has always been clear that bespoke deals for the UK is a non-starter. If there is anything blocking a future relationship between the UK and EU based on a single market and customs union arrangement it is the red line in Labour’s manifesto committing the Party to end freedom of movement. But if Labour is genuinely committed to a Brexit that protects jobs and safeguards our economy, keeping the UK in the single market and a customs union is essential. And backing the EEA amendment has the best chance of achieving this.”

Share