A ‘Nor­way-plus’ op­tion is the EU deal we want

Con­ser­va­tives must unite to get a deal that al­lows us to stay in the sin­gle mar­ket and con­trol our bor­ders

The Daily Telegraph - - Letters To The Editor - FOL­LOW Jeremy Hunt on Twit­ter @ Jere­my_Hunt; READ MORE at tele­graph.co.uk/opin­ion JEREMY HUNT

The peo­ple have spo­ken – and Par­lia­ment must lis­ten. Bri­tain must and will leave the EU. But we did not vote on the terms of our de­par­ture. The Leavers said we would get a good trade deal as the fifth­largest econ­omy in the world. The Re­main­ers wor­ried Europe would try for a quickie di­vorce on pun­ish­ment terms. It is now im­per­a­tive we are clear-headed about what deal we need as a country and what our plan is to get there.

The first part of the plan must be clar­ity that we will re­main in the sin­gle mar­ket. We are the world’s great­est trad­ing na­tion. We have shaped the world and the world has shaped us through our his­tory of be­ing open to free trade and cham­pi­oning it more than any other. It is not just at the heart of our eco­nomic suc­cess – it is also at the heart of our iden­tity as one of the most open, lib­eral, out­ward-look­ing so­ci­eties any­where. So the Gov­ern­ment needs to calm mar­kets and many wor­ried in­vestors and busi­nesses, both lo­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally, by mak­ing it clear that it is an ex­plicit na­tional ob­jec­tive to re­main in the sin­gle mar­ket even as we leave the in­sti­tu­tions of the EU.

Se­condly, we need to do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to re­store sta­bil­ity. Af­ter the dis­gust­ing ex­am­ples of an­tiPol­ish xenophobia at the week­end, this will in­clude re­as­sur­ing the many won­der­ful Euro­pean ci­ti­zens con­tribut­ing to our econ­omy and mak­ing their liv­ing here. All Con­ser­va­tive lead­er­ship can­di­dates should jointly pledge this week that full per­ma­nent res­i­dence will be granted to all Euro­pean ci­ti­zens liv­ing and work­ing in Bri­tain on the day of the ref­er­en­dum. The 110,000 EU ci­ti­zens work­ing in our hos­pi­tals and care homes de­serve no less.

But it is also cru­cial to un­der­stand the mes­sage given by the elec­torate last Thurs­day, how­ever un­com­fort­able that may be. It is clear that the country has re­jected the free move­ment of peo­ple as it cur­rently op­er­ates. The po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment – of all par­ties – has been pun­ished for lead­ing peo­ple up the gar­den path on im­mi­gra­tion: for decades when peo­ple have said: “There is too much im­mi­gra­tion,” we have said: “We agree,” and then ap­peared to do noth­ing. We have not ad­dressed peo­ple’s eco­nomic con­cerns by be­ing hon­est that grow­ing economies do need im­mi­gra­tion (un­less we want to stag­nate like low-im­mi­gra­tion Ja­pan). Nor have we ad­dressed peo­ple’s iden­tity con­cerns, of­ten as much about the pace of im­mi­gra­tion and the way it has changed com­mu­ni­ties so quickly, as about the prin­ci­ple it­self.

The so­lu­tion is to recog­nise that this is as much of a prob­lem for other EU coun­tries as us. The EU faces col­lapse un­less it re­forms free move­ment rules. You sim­ply can­not jus­tify why the Danes or the Dutch should have to pro­vide un­lim­ited wel­fare rights to Syr­i­ans who were given pass­ports not by their own gov­ern­ment but by the Ger­mans. That is why many Euro­pean coun­tries have se­ri­ous prob­lems with ex­treme Right par­ties – and why re­form­ing the rules around free move­ment is as much in their in­ter­ests as ours. So our plan must be to en­cour­age them to re­form those rules, thereby open­ing up a space for a “Nor­way-plus” op­tion for us – full ac­cess to the sin­gle mar­ket with a sen­si­ble com­pro­mise on free move­ment rules. As their big­gest non-EU trad­ing part­ner, it is in the Euro­pean in­ter­est to do this deal as much as it is in our in­ter­ests to se­cure it.

So what is the best way to se­cure such a deal? First, we must not in­voke Ar­ti­cle 50 straight­away be­cause that puts a time limit of two years on ne­go­ti­a­tions, af­ter which we could be thrown out with no deal at all. So be­fore set­ting the clock tick­ing, we need to ne­go­ti­ate a deal and put it to the Bri­tish peo­ple, ei­ther in a ref­er­en­dum or through the Con­ser­va­tive man­i­festo at a fresh gen­eral elec­tion. The knowl­edge that once again we will trust the Bri­tish peo­ple to de­cide on whether it is a good deal will con­cen­trate minds across the Channel: if they want to con­clude this am­i­ca­bly and quickly, which is in their in­ter­ests as much as ours, they need to put a “Nor­way-plus” deal on the ta­ble.

And what next for the Con­ser­va­tive Party? We have had the courage to of­fer the most dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion in a gen­er­a­tion to the Bri­tish peo­ple. But if we are hon­est, the lead­er­ship of all the ma­jor par­ties was un­able to make its case about the eco­nomic risks of leav­ing the EU be­cause we have stopped con­nect­ing with less af­flu­ent and less met­ro­pol­i­tan vot­ers.

The Con­ser­va­tive mod­erni­sa­tion project suc­ceeded in re­as­sur­ing many younger and more lib­eral vot­ers – but will not be com­plete un­til we are also con­nect­ing with many who are strug­gling to make ends meet at the more bru­tal end of mod­ern cap­i­tal­ist economies. We need to unite the party af­ter a bruis­ing bat­tle on the ref­er­en­dum, but we must re­main re­solved to unite the country as well. This is a time to re­mem­ber our her­itage as the party of one-na­tion Ben­jamin Dis­raeli as much as the free-trad­ing Robert Peel – and tap into their re­mark­able vi­sion and op­ti­mism for the fu­ture.

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