Return to common market principles is best way to leave EU

Theresa May and European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker

Now is the time for realism and pragmatism. The clock is ticking, and major questions about our future relationship with the EU remain unanswered. Our new customs and regulatory arrangements must reflect the needs of British businesses and protect the livelihood of UK workers.

So it’s no wonder that an off-the-shelf, already-tested model such as Efta/EEA (European Free Trade Association/European Economic Area) is attracting more and more supporters.

The UK voted to leave the EU. All my colleagues respect that. However, the referendum did not tell us how to leave – the customs union and the single market were not mentioned on that ballot paper. The result is important, too: a 52% to 48% victory is not a mandate for the hardest of Brexits.

“The tectonic plates are shifting” is an oft-quoted political phrase and is apt. The notion that this will be the easiest negotiation becomes more absurd as the complexity of leaving the EU becomes apparent. Pragmatic leavers and remainers increasingly recognise that initial positions are neither sustainable nor credible, as the evidence suggests they will not work for our country or be agreed by the EU.

In order to move forward and find the solutions to this most complex of tasks we need to come together, not as Brexiters or remainers, but as pragmatists working in the national interest. If there is an option outside of the EU that works for our citizens and protects our economy, we must put past allegiances aside and unite the country.

That’s why I believe we should pursue the Efta/EEA solution, which would protect the economy, jobs and businesses. Companies are rightly concerned about the uncertainty they face and the potential for costly…

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