A Canada-style deal with the EU should be Britain’s goal – but there’s only one way to achieve it
SIR – We have reached an impasse in the Brexit negotiations. The talks have stalled, attitudes in Parliament are hardening – and, every day, the risk of no deal rises. No politicians, at least ones who worry about jobs and livelihoods, want out of the EU next March on barebones WTO terms. We need to find another way.
We come from different sides of the political spectrum, but both believe our country’s long-term interests are best served by leaving the EU. We also agree that a Canada-style deal should be our goal. We want a mutually beneficial relationship with the EU, with a free trade arrangement that delivers prosperity and lets us make our own laws, control our borders and strike deals around the world.
But there are real problems with the Canada option. First, it isn’t negotiable with Europe at the moment. Yes, they have said they are open to such a deal – even one with some plus, plus, pluses. But the price is that it must be for Britain only, with a border in the Irish Sea. No Unionist can accept this.
Secondly, even if we were able to negotiate a Canada-style deal for the whole of the UK, we would not get enough votes in the Commons. There is too much opposition among our colleagues. Of course, we disagree with them. But parliamentary maths is parliamentary maths, and we’ll be exhausting time and energy in negotiating an arrangement that would likely fall in Westminster.
Thirdly, despite the evidence, Michel Barnier has refused to accept that technological solutions could deal with the Irish land border. Likewise, many of our parliamentary colleagues think Canada equals trade friction.
We are convinced that, in time, Canada can succeed. But “Canada now” just does not work.
However, there is an off-the-shelf option which can pass through Parliament and protect our Union. We still hope Theresa May gets her deal, but if the Government does not negotiate one in time, it should go for “Norway for Now”. This would be a time-bounded solution giving space to achieve a Canada-style deal plus a free trade agreement. It would mean Britain accessing temporarily the European Economic Area through membership of the European Free Trade Association subject to the Efta court and a temporary customs union. The Irish land border would then look and feel exactly as it does today. Frank Field MP (Ind) Andrew Murrison MP (Con) London SW1
SIR – After the 2016 referendum, Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister, warned our Government that it is impossible to negotiate with the EU.
After two whole years of Theresa May’s attempts, which have only resulted in concessions from our side, one has to ask what part of Mr Varoufakis’s advice she doesn’t understand. Dr Peter Grey
SIR – Theresa May’s idea of a Brexit transition period risks turning Britain into a vassal state. To say that this is utterly unacceptable to voters would be the understatement of the century.
Never, over the past 60 years, has our country had to tolerate such an incompetent prime minister. Other Cabinet ministers have allowed Mrs May and her cabal of advisers effectively to shut them out of any debate. Are they spineless?
The time has come for Conservative MPs to find the backbone to bring about Mrs May’s resignation and replacement. David T Price
SIR – If Mrs May is intent on blackmailing Conservatives in Parliament to agree to any form of Brexit that falls short of a complete break with the EU, as demanded in the referendum, then the party will deserve to lose the next general election. John Pritchard