Parliament must have a specific vote on whether or not the UK should withdraw from the European Economic Area (EEA), Open Britain says today.
With the Great Repeal Bill being introduced to Parliament today, MPs pointed out that, legally, the UK would need to notify of its intention to leave the EEA separately from its notification of withdrawal from the European Union.
David Davis hinted that a vote could be possible in his statement in the House of Commons this afternoon, but DeExEU have since rushed out a statement denying that any vote need take place.
The EEA comprises 31 states – the 28 member states of the EU, plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. EEA members are in most aspects of the Single Market (but not fisheries and agriculture) and are also not in the Customs Union, meaning they can therefore negotiate their own free trade agreements.
It is vital that MPs are given a specific vote on this important matter, rather than allowing the Government to take such an important decision as part of the Great Repeal Bill.
Commenting, Heidi Alexander MP, leading supporter of Open Britain, said:
“The Single Market is the deepest and most comprehensive free trading agreement in the world. It gives our businesses barrier-free trade to the largest market on Earth, supporting millions of jobs and thousands of businesses across the country.
“The Government’s stampede towards a hard Brexit which yanks us out of the Single Market will make working people worse off.
“Ministers have promised a new trading arrangement that delivers the exact same benefits as we have today. Until they show us how they can deliver on that tall order, they should not be cavalier about taking us out of the Single Market.
“This is not a decision that should be made by the stroke of David Davis’s pen in the bowels of Whitehall. It should be put before people’s elected representatives in Parliament.”
Notes to editors:
- The European Economic Area (EEA) comprises the 28 EU member states, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway and was created on 1 January 1994 and unites these countries into an Internal Market governed by the same basic rules. These rules aim to enable goods, services, capital, and persons to move freely about the EEA in an open and competitive environment, a concept referred to as the four freedoms. It includes virtually all aspects of the EU apart from the Common Fisheries and Agriculture policy, the Common Foreign and Security and Common Security and Defence Policies.
- The three non-EU EEA members, are also free to conduct their own free trade agreements.
- The EEA was incorporated into EU law through the 1993 European Economic Area act
- There are arguments that the UK will have to notify of its withdrawal from the European Economic Area separately to its withdrawal from the European Union. This is based on the need to repeal the 1993 European Economic Area Act http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1993/51/pdfs/ukpga_19930051_en.pdf and also article 127 of the EEA agreement, which notes that “Each Contracting Party may withdraw from this Agreement provided it gives at least twelve months' notice in writing to the other Contracting Parties.” http://www.efta.int/media/documents/legal-texts/eea/the-eea-agreement/Main%20Text%20of%20the%20Agreement/EEAagreement.pdf
- The Government today ignored concerns today that these steps would be necessary. Open Britain is of the opinion that proper parliamentary debate is required on this issue before the UK is dragged out of the single market by an act of Hard Brexit.
- The Department for Exiting the European Union has put out a statement saying:
“We will not be a member of the Single Market or the EEA. Once we leave the EU, the EEA Agreement will no longer be relevant for the UK. It will have no practical effect.
“We therefore do not envisage a vote. We are considering what steps, if any, might need to be taken to formally terminate the EEA Agreement as a matter of international law.
“That is what the Secretary of State was referring to in the House and we will of course keep Parliament fully updated.”