Response to Marcus Fysh MP

A curious phenomenon is occurring, where MPs who previously supported negotiating a Norway or Switzerland-style relationship with the EU are now mysteriously changing their minds for flimsy reasons.

Controversial MP Marcus Fysh who once supported the Single Market and UK rejoining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) has now renounced the idea in an article in the Telegraph (surprise, surprise). 

His fellow MP, Antoinette Sandbach has replied to his Telegraph article with the below letter: 

Courtesy of the Politwoops website we can see that Mr Fysh has been busily deleting tweets that tie him to his former stated beliefs: 





What are Mr Fysh’s major gripes with EFTA/EEA? He makes three main points – one, he doesn’t believe that the EFTA model(s) will allow us control over immigration, thinks it will inhibit our ability to conclude trade deals and control our regulations. 

Firstly, we have looked at the migration issue before, and we believe a sensible compromise is possible, based on existing precedents

Secondly, the whole ‘efta/eea will stop us doing trade deals’ idea is pure poppycock. 

Let’s look at EFTA/EEA member Iceland:

Iceland is not subject to the EU’s Common commercial policy or Customs Union and so can make her own trade deals. She doesn’t have to adhere to the EU’s Common Customs Tariff (CCT)/ Common External Tariff (CET).

Notably, Iceland was the first European country to sign a free trade agreement with China – a nation of 1.379 billion people. 

In addition, Iceland has signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the USA. 

Via her membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), Iceland has 27 FTAs covering 38 countries and territories outside the EU.

Via her participation in the EEA (European Economic Area) agreement, Iceland has free trade in goods and services with all members of the EU. 

So clearly EFTA/EEA has not stopped Iceland from trading all over the world or signing FTAs.

Mr Fysh’s final point is “controlling our regulations”. It is a Hard Brexiteer shibboleth that in order to achieve Global trading success the UK must have absolute freedom to alter her regulations as part of trade deals.

This view, popularised by the mysterious Legatum Institute  runs as follows: 

Legatum seems to think that by jettisoning all regulatory ties to the EU and EFTA we can ‘put everything on the table’ during trade talks to sign some super-duper trade deal with say – the USA. This approach is effectively putting all our eggs in one basket and hoping for the best. 

It is also a single use trick. The UK cannot align with the USA, sign a ‘super’ trade deal with them and then change their regulations for a new ‘super’ trade deal with say, China. Since Europe is our biggest market, a regulatory superpower that we are already aligned with, logically we should stay aligned to European frameworks. 

Finally we come to the nub of the matter. Mr Fysh writes:


Mr Fysh believes that EFTA/EEA membership would inhibit our ability to shape our financial service regulations. We argue here that this is unlikely, and not a serious concern, especially when compared to the very real risk of a Hard Brexit. 

We hope Mr Fysh will look again at the EFTA model and change his mind one more.