Farron: PM must clear up David Davis’s single market mess

Yesterday, Brexit Secretary David Davis made his first parliamentary statement since his appointment and it didn’t reveal very much. Our EU spokesperson was not impressed:

Paul Walter found some cause for optimism but there were also some very worrying aspects.of his answers to questions from 85 backbenchers.

He stated that full access to the single market was “very improbable.”

I am saying that this Government are looking at every option, but the simple truth is that if a requirement of membership is giving up control of our borders, then I think that makes that very improbable.

Tim Farron has written to Theresa May to ask her to clarify exactly what he meant. Is the Government actually giving up on the single market before we even start? If so, that is a real disaster for the country.

Tim said:

David Davis yesterday seemed to rule out membership of the single market for access, in a statement, from the government, at the dispatch box.  I know it has been a while since he was on the front bench and he might be rusty but these things matter.

The public need to know if ideological zeal is threatening our economic security.  It is time for the Prime Minister to step in and clear up the mess.

Here is his letter in full:

I  am writing to urge you to clarify comments made by the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis in the House of Commons yesterday. He said on the Single Market:

“This Government is looking at every option. But the simple truth is that if a requirement of membership is giving up control of our borders, I think that makes it very improbable…About forty countries have free trade agreements with Europe without any deals on migration, without any deals on money,”

Can I ask what status his comments have? Was he speaking officially on behalf of the Government? Is this the Government’s policy in regard to the single market?

The value of the Single Market to the UK economy is clear. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies “Maintaining membership of the Single Market as part of the EEA could be worth potentially 4% on GDP – adding almost two years of trend GDP growth – relative to World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership alone. This would, on average, mean higher living standards and likely be distributed across income levels. Both theory and the available modelling suggest EEA membership would be likely to mean stronger UK economic performance than an FTA with the EU.”

In terms of the public finance implications, the macroeconomic effects negate any direct savings from a reduced EU contribution.

I like forward to a prompt reply and your comments. It has been claimed you were ‘unimpressed’ with a letter sent by Liam Fox, and I thoroughly share that sentiment.

You say ‘Brexit means Brexit’ but it should not also mean economic disaster for British families.

The one Liberal Democrat question came from John Pugh:

15% of our academics are EU citizens and we would like more. What is being done to give them long-term security?

Davis’s response was along the line of “t’ll be fine.” We used to hear this all the time from the Yes campaign during the Scottish referendum. It does not inspire confidence.


The prize for the most sycophantic question, possibly of the century, has to go to Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell. How can anyone ask something like this in a serious parliamentary scrutiny session?

 Is it not absolutely clear that he has both the skills and the experience that are required for the extremely difficult job that lies ahead?

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Meanwhile in the real world:
    “The services sector returned to form, bouncing back from 47.4 in July to 52.9. It was the biggest month-to-month rise in the 20 years that the index has been running. The performance of services means an all-sector PMI figure of 53.2, the highest since March. Economists say this makes a post-referendum recession less likely.”
    Source: Guardian

    “The UK services sector rebounded sharply in August suggesting an imminent recession will be “avoided”, data showed this morning. After an abrupt contraction in July following the outcome of the shock Brexit vote, the services sector recovered in August, enjoying its biggest monthly increase in 20 years.”
    Source: Telegraph

    Much as Mervyn King predicted: ‘…the long-term effect of a Brexit on GDP would turn out to be “a bit of a fuss about nothing”. He said uncertainty would affect investment in the short term, but predicted the long-term impact to be “much smaller than either side pretend”.’
    Source: BBC

    Much to suggest, as is so often the case, that real ‘experts’ are to be found in the minority. On a number of issues the media should learn to stop counting heads and start counting failed versus correct predictions before assigning the title of ‘expert’.

  • Barry Snelson 6th Sep '16 - 1:09pm

    I am very pleased with this response. I like Clegg’s “Up Brexit creek”. I also liked Anna Soubry’s “Last of the Summer Wine” comparison.
    Davies desire to leave the single market will lead to the de-industrialisation of Britain.

    Could I exhort the leadership to sustain and broaden these attacks on the three unwise monkeys?

    Of course, as a matter of principle, I am against personal attacks and vilification of individuals but I think every rule has an exception and Fox, Davies and Johnson are it.

  • Actually no, Barry. Just because we really, really don’t like people or what they stand for, it doesn’t give us the right to attack them personally and calling them after animals is out of order so please don’t do it.

  • A bit off topic, but can you add Donald Trump to your list Barry?

  • PHIL THOMAS 6th Sep '16 - 1:51pm

    Why wasn’t Tim Farron there yesterday to ask Davis a question ? There was only 1 Lib Dem MP present. This is not good enough.

  • Denis Loretto 6th Sep '16 - 1:56pm

    I realise that not everything that matters takes place in the Commons chamber but I really think it is important for our 8 Lib Dem MPs to play their part there. I watched virtually all the debate yesterday and was very disappointed that the kind of points now being made in a subsequent letter from our leader (which will get little coverage in the media) were not initially made in the House. The vapid statement by David Davis was a huge open goal and it was left to others to point this out. John Pugh was no doubt raising a worthy point but it was far from the main thrust of the debate and unsurprisingly briefly dismissed by Davis. I could see no other Lib Dems present at all.

    If it is felt that with only 8 MPs we should not attempt to get our positive views across in the Commons I think this is a profound error, especially when it is so difficult to get publicity in the press at large.

  • Don’t be too hard on Tim Farron; left to themselves the government are destroying any credibility they may have had over ‘Brexit meanz Brexit’….

    Yesterday David Davis (Minister for ‘Brexit’) spent a couple of hours trying to explain government policy…..This morning Theresa May said that what he said, “Was not government policy’..

    You couldn’t make it up

  • Eddie Sammon 6th Sep '16 - 2:43pm

    Considering everyone seems to be asking the government for their exact negotiating position, can we ask what the Lib Dems is? Is it single market membership and nothing on free movement? Or a UK concession on free movement? Or EU wide reform on freemovement?

    I’m giving up on my best of both worlds approach. It’s becoming crunch time and if you ask for it you get mocked from your own side as well as the EU anyway.

    We need to look at the domestic concerns of countries and see if we can help to boost goodwill. Calais is becoming a big issue in the French primaries at the moment. If we help there it will boost our chances of getting a good deal. Same with helping out Italy and Greece with the migrants and refugees.

    Michel BarnIer, the chief negotiator, wants the UK to participate in EU military and security arrangements still and wanted us to stay in the EU. We can work with him, but the European Parliament will be more difficult.

  • Barry Snelson 6th Sep '16 - 3:05pm

    You are, as ever, quite correct to reprimand me and I apologise for my over excitement.

    Notwithstanding the zoological comparisons, these three are prime targets and were part of an organisation which systematically employed every device to erase their “partners” (= us) from the electoral map.

    The Tories’ USP is “competence” and this is a golden opportunity to irreparably damage their brand just as they damaged (I hope not irreparably) ours.

  • Barry Snelson 6th Sep '16 - 3:41pm

    BTW, I normally agree with Eddie Sammon’s views but I would be more cagey and reluctant to offer a position, at least for now.

    I think the Brexiteers’ promises are undeliverable and it will be almost impossible to better the situation we had before June 23rd.

    I realise the LibDem morality is founded on helpfulness and cooperation (but what good did that do us?). We should have more of a ruthless streak now and exploit the difficulties the Tories are landed with.

    I know fellow members will feel uncomfortable but we need to win back seats and the Tory ones could be the easiest.

  • Katharine Pindar 6th Sep '16 - 11:39pm

    I gather from the TV reviews of tomorrow morning’s papers that the Prime Minister has indeed contradicted David Davis’s statement at the Dispatch Box about the country probably having to leave the single market, so it seems that Tim’s prompt letter was effective. Good to know that he and John Pugh and Nick Clegg were all responsive on that statement, and thanks, Caron, for filling us in on their timely and useful comments.

  • J George SMID 7th Sep '16 - 9:23am

    #Blindxit. Nobody knows. What really annoys me is that almost all EU countries already defined what sort of Brexit they want to see. The only one who still keeps quiet about quitting (Brexit) arrangements is the UK. Brexit means Brexit, says May. But what does Brexit mean? says I. Now the Japanese defined the outcome, the Australians will take two and half years, the US will first complete the EU talks … And the Remainers split in what looks like a role reverser: Brexiters were divided during the campaign and the Remainers were united under Stronger-In umbrella. Now Brexiters are united and Remainers split: Open Europe (nee Stronger In), European Movement, Movement for Europe, EuroActive, MoreUnited … I bet there are more. Only in Stamford (population 20 thousands) we have European Movement, Stamford In, Rainbow Coalition and Stamford Together.

  • There was only 1 Lib Dem MP present. This is not good enough. and similar comments.

    I totally agree, there can be no justification whatsoever for this; particularly, given the advanced warning and public announcements concerning the timing of this statement to Parliament. Therefore the occurrence of this event and the fact that it would have widespread media coverage could not have passed either the LibDem MP’s or their advisors by; or am I wrong in my assumption that the LibDems are media aware and savvy?

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