Free movement, state aid, European courts – a Common Market 2.0 mythbuster

This evening, parliament will again consider different Brexit options through the indicative vote process. Theresa May hasn’t been willing to compromise and give MPs a say, so we have come together to reclaim the process and see which options we can coalesce around.

Today is a day for compromise, for deciding what we can live with for the good of the country – not another day for red lines and intransigence. As our Common Market 2.0 proposal has gained traction, there has rightly been more scrutiny of it. Yet there have also been misleading and untrue commentaries.

It’s a shame that the tactics of some mean they have spent more time tearing into sincere attempts at compromise by others than selling the positives of their own plans. That’s why I’ve put together a myth-busting guide to our Common Market 2.0 proposals.

As a refresher, Common Market 2.0 would see us leave the political institutions of the EU, making a clean political break, but retain a close economic and security relationship through the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the European Economic Area (EEA) and the single market. We would also negotiate a customs arrangement, until such time as this was unnecessary in future.

Myth #1: We would be ‘rule-takers not rule-makers’

Under Common Market 2.0, parliamentary sovereignty would be restored. EU law would no longer have precedence over UK law. All new laws would require approval by parliament. The UK would take back control of policies over agriculture, fisheries, justice, home affairs, defence and foreign affairs. This means leaving the Common Agricultural and Fisheries policies. Less than 30% of new EU rules would apply to us. We would be consulted on any new rules, and UK representatives would sit on policy-shaping committees that decide them.

We would regain our independent representation at global organisations such as the WTO, allowing us to actively shape global standards that are the basis for many EU laws. New single market rules need to be agreed unanimously by the EEA and EU countries at the EEA Joint Committee to have effect. This gives the UK the chance to negotiate adaptations and derogations from new rules. If we could not secure these changes, we could, in extreme cases, refuse to implement new single market legislation. 

Myth #2: There is no control on Freedom of Movement

Common Market 2.0 would give us an important new power over immigration under Article 112 of the EEA agreement. In exceptional circumstances, we’d be able to unilaterally suspend freedom of movement, if large levels of immigration caused serious economic or social problems. Through the government’s preparations for Brexit, we will be in a better position to apply existing European rules on immigration. This means that we could remove from the UK new European migrants who are not in work after three months or who don’t otherwise have the means to support themselves.

Myth #3: A future Labour government would be constrained

Some on the left claim that Common Market 2.0 would stop a future Labour government from implementing our radical programme. This is ill-informed nonsense. State aid rules do not stop countries in the EEA from nationalising already privatised industries or prevent the state from setting up government-backed alternatives to privatised industries. There was no policy in the 2017 Labour manifesto that state aid rules would curtail. In 2011, Norway declined to implement a directive to deregulate the postal service, which effectively stopped Post Office privatisation in the country, as a result of derogating the EU directive.

Myth #4: The EFTA court “shadows” the ECJ

We would leave the European Court of Justice. The EFTA court is a wholly separate and independent court with separate and independent jurisdiction. Indeed, the EFTA court regularly departs from EU decisions. Moreover, as a guidance court, its decisions are non-binding on our domestic courts.

Myth #5: A stand-alone customs union is good for workers 

In Common Market 2.0, we’d be part of a customs arrangement alongside our single market membership. As we make clear in our pamphlet, this would be temporary until alternative arrangements can be agreed.

As the TUC and others have argued, a stand-alone customs union is not ideal because it does not guarantee the rights and freedoms workers enjoy as part of the single market. To safeguard jobs and our economy, we must have Common Market 2.0 – not solely a customs union.

Myth #6: We would continue making big payments to the EU

Under Common Market 2.0, we would take back control of budgetary contributions from the EU, ensuring more money for our public services at home. Of course we would have to pay to be part of the shared institutions of CM2.0, but those payments would be significantly lower than they are now.

Myth #7: Common Market 2.0 is not really Brexit 

When I was director of Britain in Europe, I used to argue against the Norway option. I’ve come a long way to a compromise position to honour the referendum result. Leading Eurosceptics – Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Bill Cash, George Eustice and others – all used to argue for the Norway option before and during the referendum. It is a Brexit that takes us out of the EU’s ‘ever closer union’ and the institutions of the Common Agricultural Policy, Common Fisheries Policy and the ECJ. We would increase our power to control freedom of movement, our laws and finances, deliver on the referendum result and we would also be part of an alliance of prosperous democracies.

Myth #8: It’s Common Market 2.0 or a People’s Vote

Supporting the best possible Brexit and arguing for a People’s Vote are not mutually exclusive. To hold any referendum, we would need to decide which Leave option to put on the ballot paper. Common Market 2.0 is a strong, sensible Brexit that could be put back to the people if parliament so decides. There is no way that the PM’s deal could be the Leave option given it has been rejected so many times.

There is no silver bullet to deal with Brexit, but we have to be honest and respectful of the options in front of us. None is perfect, and there is no moral hierarchy of the choices available.

It’s clear that our Common Market 2.0 proposal enjoys a wide breadth and depth of support across parliament and our new amendment today has even wider reach. The range of Remainers, Leavers, Labour, Conservative, SNP, Lib Dem, Plaid Cymru support it has picked up is substantial. Both the SNP and the DUP abstained on our motion last week whilst voting against a customs union option, and the SNP have indicated they will back Common Market 2.0 today. And Labour is now whipping in favour of our motion.

As we move forward with the process of parliament taking back control, let’s be honest about the pros and the cons in each proposal. Today we have the opportunity to come together: we must seize this chance and direct a paralysed government to solve the Brexit crisis.

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