Keep Britain in the Single Market

As Caron mentioned yesterday a petition been posted on the Liberal Democrat website ahead of a possible statement from the Prime Minister today. It says:

Leaked documents suggest that the Conservatives are getting ready to take Britain out of the Single Market.

Leaving the Single Market would be deeply damaging for jobs, businesses and the economy.

Don’t let the Tories push our economy’s self-destruct button – add your name today and support our campaign to keep Britain in the Single Market.

You can sign it here.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice.

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This entry was posted in News.


  • A robust claim has been made on another thread here that no-one on the Leave side of the argument “wanted to remain a member of the Single Market” (the argument is about “access”). Is this just a semantic argument or does it have any objective truth about it. The protagonist argues that David Cameron made the claim – of course he did – because that is what Remain said – you could not remain a SM member without accepting the rules of the game. Surely that is what Boris’s “cake and eat it” was about?

  • “Don’t let the Tories push our economy’s self-destruct button – add your name today and support our campaign to keep Britain in the Single Market.”

    Perhaps it would be more honest to add a PS saying that the only way we can stay in the single market is if we keep freedom of movement.

  • That’s my view, Malc. But it has taken the “cake and eat it” faction a long time to start recognising this, publicly at least. I take Theresa’s article yesterday to mean she is now also publicly recognising that. If that is now general – along with today’s further currency devaluation, the next part of the process is the persuasion and realisation on the part of a substantial majority that Membership of the EU is the best “deal” we will get. In reality, it is not just a “deal”, it is a long term international relationship guaranteeing long term peace stability, and what prosperity may be available in these tough times. To throw this away, along with the Single Market which makes a major contribution to our ability to keep our end up economically, seems very foolish indeed.

  • It will be interesting to see who signs this after Liberal Democrat MSPs joined with the tories to vote against single market membership in Holyrood less than two months ago…

  • ethicsgradient 9th Jan '17 - 3:37pm

    in response to Tim13’s responses but it an open comment to all.

    I think the ‘have your cake and eat it’ surmises the notion that the UK will leave the EU itself and in parallel negotiate a separate bilateral (UK-EU) trade deal that is beneficial to both sides. The result being that we are free to control boarders and levels of immigration , the political and Judicial EU oversight is removed and we have good access to the single market for goods and services.

    Why might this happen? I think for 2 reasons, One philosophical/ideological the other is practical and necessary.

    1.Philosohpical/ideological: Trade/Free trade/Easy trade does not require over-arching transnational political structures. All it requires is a strong regulator to settle disputes and to make sure both sides play fairly as in all other trade agreements. Trade agreements do not require freedom of movement. Trade agreements do not require vast subscription. These 3 things are only required if you are building bureaucratic structures to organised, run and govern a single unified state. Freedom of movement being needed for citizens of this state. Ergo the EU insinuations are not required for a free trade area so are not needed for UK-EU bilateral free trade.

    2. Practical and necessary: Free and easy trade is in the interests of both the EU and the UK. We are a big developed market that all areas of the EU will wish to sell into. the EU is a big market that we would wish to trade with. Alongside interlinked supply chains, why would anyone wish to make both sides poorer by imposing restrictions and barriers? we both wish to trade with each other, it is just the UK does not wish to have the political oversight and institutions that required to form a country but not for trade. It is practical for both sides to move to a free trade+equivalence situation. If politics gets in the way and the EU wish to ‘punish’ the EU (and what way is that to bring about integration… by threatening nations… madness) then so be it. Let us drop corporation tax become even more business become the european Singapore or Hong Kong. Trade is good! trade does not have to be determined by political institutions.

  • May seems hellbent on driving Sterling into the ground. Practically every speech she makes drives it downwards.

  • Bearing in mind Donald Tusk’s comments about how “useless” talk of a soft Brexit is, since it is never going to be an option, surely this petition is aimed squarely at the wrong target?

  • ethicsgradient

    I am sure the EU did not wish to “punish” Canada, but still the CETA agreement took 7 years to negotiate and almost failed at the end. This is because trade agreements are inherently complicated and the bigger the economies involved, the longer they take.. For example the EU is in surplus with us on manufactured goods so may be happy enough to do that, but we are in surplus on financial services, and some parts of the EU may not want to agree that..

    Canada could afford to wait years: their trade is overwhelmingly with the USA and the EU is a bonus. Our largest trading partner is the EU and waiting will be very damaging..

    This business of the EU “punishing” us really is Daily Mail speak designed to blame the EU for our own folly. If you resign from a club you cant expect to get the benefits of membership..

  • jedibeeftrix 9th Jan '17 - 10:02pm

    When can we talk about jumping onboard the Ukraine train? Destination DCFTA.

  • @ethicsgradient – What is a “vast subscription”?

    Given the Single Market membership fee the UK is likely to pay is considered to be around the same as our net EU contribution, ie. circa £250m pw. the question that has to be asked is: Is £13bn pa (ie. 6%) too much to pay to gain favourable access to the Single Market where we currently gain £220bn pa of exports?

    The problem, which Farage et al exploited, is that most members of the public are not number confident and hence are easily fooled into thinking £350m pw is ‘vast’ when in context it isn’t.

    A further problem is that no other trade arrangement has such an obvious cost associated with it, even though it is obvious agreements such as WTO, TTIP, CETA all have costs associated with them.

  • ethicsgradient 10th Jan '17 - 2:52am



    I get what your saying but would counter with 2 points. The future UK-EU trade deal would be unique because all the standards, things to be correlated and minutiae are already the same because we are/will have been members of the EU single market since it began. There is no converge of differing standards to be worked out because they are already the same. So why does it need to take 7 years when the detailed work is already done/not required as everything already matches? The 2nd point would be why do things have to be complicated? things only need to be as complicated as people want to make them. A thing of practical beauty is the american Constitution with runs to two pages ( it has some draw backs granted, but what a succinct piece of legislation).

    Additionally (a side point) the EU’s poor ability to negotiate deals either without making them vastly complex or taking so long is one of significant reasons I voted to leave and think the UK will do very well/better outside the EU.


    I agree with you to be fair. 12-13bn a year is not a huge amount compared to the Welfare and health budgets ( past 100bn each). So a poor choice of wording on my part. This does not negate the point I made though. 12bn is a significant cost though. Why does a trade relationship ( which is all the UK has truly wanted) need to cost so much? The answer is because it is there to build and support bureaucratic structures attaining to a trans-national quasi-country. The UK ( at least majority sentiment) has never wanted and part of this political project. Lets get to a trade agreement with a simple effect regulator to arbitrate and nothing else.

  • @ethicsgradient
    “the EU’s poor ability to negotiate deals…”

    You’re not wrong there. During the referendum campaign, remainers (including several LDV writers) told us we should stay in the EU because of the EU’s ability to negotiate trade deals on its members’ behalf. Six months on and those very same people have zero confidence in the EU’s ability to negotiate a mutually beneficial trade deal with the UK. Were they wrong then, or are they wrong now?

  • @ethicsgradient

    The trouble is that the Single Market is the world’s best free trade agreement, by a mile, so any alternative is almost certain to be a big downgrade (especially on services).

    You elide over the customs union. But if you’re out of the customs union then restrictions and barriers are a necessity, not an imposition. You must have border inspections and rules-of-origin or third countries can dodge your rules.

    In the Single Market you have one set of product rules and regulations. Outside it you have two sets and then you negotiate for mutual recognition, or if one partner is weaker (i.e. the UK), then it has to adopt the other party’s regulations with no say over them (as Canada does with US auto regulation).

    In the Single Market you can solve any dispute by direct recourse to the courts as a private party, get an injunction and appeal up to the ECJ. With a free trade agreement, you’re fine if everyone plays fair, but if not you have to rely on some state-level dispute resolution mechanism.

    With the Single Market, you’re guaranteed some basic stability. With an FTA you’re the Mexican auto industry facing off against Donald Trump under NAFTA, at the mercy of the stronger party. Companies consider that when deciding where to locate.

    Certainly you don’t need over-arching transnational political structures for trade and I’d prefer a different kind of EU. But if your overwhelmingly important trading partner has such structures you’re much better off inside them than not. Leaving the Single Market for an FTA turns us into a poorer, more dependent country.

  • grahame lamb 10th Jan '17 - 9:54am

    May I say gently to Mary Reid (and perhaps others) that the British people voted freely in a Referendum to leave the European Union. The EU comprises – inter alia – the Single Market and the Customs Union. Brexit means Brexit. If some Liberal Democrats don’t like living in a liberal democracy I respectfully suggest that they might not be quite so liberal or democratic as they assert to be. Point?

  • Antony Watts 10th Jan '17 - 9:55am

    The EU is not a trading area with which you can make a deal. The EU is a Union committed to a inclusive, comprehensive, un-seperable set of agreements. One of which is Single Market/Customs Union cannot be separated from Free Movement.

    If you leave the EU you become a Foreign country and they have agreements with many, and I’m sure they will be willing to negotiate one with UK. Just that we have to fix the terms. One of the terms will no doubt be that to sell into the EU you have to meet all the EU product regulations (level playing field). OK, we could do that, at a cost (our own institutions, test houses, standards publications etc. Then there is the negotiation of thousands of product categories and the level of customs duty for each… this will require thousands of civil servants and customs officials, and lot of paper work for each export/import. At a cost of…

    On the other hand we could just remain. And find a local home-grown solution to accepting the thousands of EU nationals who decide to come her to work – (remember they have to find work or return home after a few months…

    I think our best solution is to remain and sort out our housing and benefits problems here in UK.

  • Anthony Watts: Agreed “our best solution is to remain”. However, we signed up to the EEA Treaty in May 1992, with the other 11 states that were part of the EC but to my understanding it was not contingent on EC membership which was superseded by the EU under the Maarstricht Treaty in November 1993. The June referendum question asked about EU membership not EEA membership so even if one takes the perverse view that the result was binding there is no mandate for leaving the EEA.
    Speculation as to what the electors thought they were voting for based on the various referendum campaigners’ positions, often contradicting themselves, is irrelevant: Parliament must take back control and ensure that if the best solution is lost that second best, retention of EEA membership is achieved.

  • Peter Watson 10th Jan '17 - 3:26pm

    What is the purpose of this petition and how would its “success” be defined or measured?
    It seems odd for the Lib Dems to organise a petition like this on their own web site and it is not apparent from the web page what will be done with it. I’m not sure how it can achieve anything (other than provide a cheap way for the party to harvest some useful email addresses), and a number of signatures less than the number of party members would just look embarrassing.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 11th Jan '17 - 9:01am

    A petition should always make it clear who it is addressed to – a person, group of people, or an organisation. It would probably be expected that this petition would be addressed to Theresa May. But unless I have missed something, the petition does not state anywhere who it is addressed to. This seems to have been the case with some other petitions that have appeared on the party website. There also seems to have been a lack of feedback with previous petitions, about how many signatures there were, and whether they have been forwarded to the relevant person, and what that person’s response was. I feel that this is something the party need to consider for future petitions.

  • grahame lamb 11th Jan '17 - 9:47am

    Paul Walter
    I understand the important technical points you are making and the various options which might become available to the UK (subject to negotiation or restriction; eg whilst no expert I understand member states of the Customs Union are not permitted to negotiate bilateral trade agreements. Correct me if I am wrong.)

    But my main point is a general political one about the Referendum offering the Electorate a choice about right IN or right OUT of the EU. Incidentally I seem to recall senior political figures such as Nick Clegg and David Cameron explicitly stating on television that leaving the EU encompassed leaving the Single Market.

    I trust that the historians are even now refilling their fountain pens and gathering up as much relevant primary evidence as possible so that one day the Full Story may be told.

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