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LONDON – Brexit Secretary David Davis has ruled out staying in the European Economic Area or joining the European Free Trade Association after Brexit, calling them “in many ways, the worst of all outcomes.”
During questions to the Department of Exiting the EU in the House of Commons, Davis said the government had given it “some considerable thought, maybe as an interim measure” but that it would not seek to join EFTA.
The Brexit secretary said that it would be a “more complicated, more difficult and less beneficial” option to join the association and that the government wanted to design a separate transition deal.
Davis also said that the UK “will no longer participate in the EEA agreement once it leaves the European Union” and that the government is considering whether it needs to take formal steps to “confirm our withdrawal.”
He said: “We are considering what steps if any we might take to formally confirm our withdrawal from the EEA agreement.”
The Brexit secretary also said that the UK will not stay in the single market or customs union during a transition period, but might look to have similar arrangements with the EU.
Labour MP Pat McFadden asked Davis why the government would not want to stay in those institutions, saying: “What is the purpose of a transitional arrangement that undermines the very stability and continuity it’s supposed to achieve?”
Davis replied: “We’re starting from the aim of maintaining as much continuity as is necessary … we may well seek a customs arrangement for that period and a similar arrangement on single market provisions, but we cannot make that decision ourselves.”
Chris Bryant, Labour MP and leading supporter of Open Britain said: “David Davis is very good at taking options off the table, but doesn’t seem to bother putting any options on the table.
“The idea that he can rule out every possible transitional arrangement except for a yet to be defined bespoke arrangement is mad, given that the talks are stuck in the mud and we have just a year left before the final Brexit deal must be finalised.”