Britain “could stay in the Single Market and still leave the EU”

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The man behind a legal challenge to keep Britain in the Single Market says his court action would not stop Brexit – in fact, it could speed up the process and allow the UK to ‘have its cake and eat it’ after all.

Peter Wilding, a Remain voter who is head of the British Influence think tank, is seeking a judicial review to ensure the UK stays in the Single Market, saying the Brexit vote gave the Government “no mandate” to also pull out of the European Economic Area (EEA).

Intriguingly, he claims the Government has been foolish in assuming that leaving the EU means the UK must leave the Single Market unless it agrees to freedom of movement for people.

Mr Wilding, who has joined forces with the Leave supporter Adrian Yalland in formally announcing their legal move today, insists his group “is not seeking to derail, delay or discredit Brexit” but wants to ensure the country gets the best deal possible.

He believes that legal technicalities mean Britain could leave the EU and stop the freedom of movement but could not be forced out of the Single Market – and all the trade and economic advantages that come with it – unless it invoked Article 127 of the EEA agreement.

How Britain could benefit

Writing on the ConservativeHome.com website, Mr Wilding says: “If we have the right to remain in the EEA whilst outside the EU, this prevents the EU using single market access as a ‘bargaining chip’, and would significantly enhance our negotiating hand because not being ‘booted out’ of the Single Market when we leave the EU means that the ‘ace’ passes from their hand to ours.

“If we can stay in the EEA, it will actually speed-up Brexit, not slow it down. Staying-in the EEA means the main bulk of the discussions – how we trade with the EU – can take place after we leave the EU rather than before.”

He adds that this would mean “we can negotiate quotas on migration” as well as “restoring control over borders, fisheries and agriculture, giving back the power to negotiate our own trade deals, bringing back legal sovereignty and keeping us as an influential voice in a Europe”.

One of many legal challenges

The Supreme Court is already considering an appeal over one legal challenge on whether Parliament must vote to invoke Article 50 to leave the EU. Meanwhile Jolyon Maugham QC, a British barrister, is pursuing a case in the Irish courts to establish whether the UK could decide to stay in the EU at the last moment even after invoking Article 50.

Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, told Sky News yesterday he believed this was the case.