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No Backsliding on Brexit: Britain Should Prioritise Controlling its Borders Over Staying in the Single Market

We brought out the big guns for our debate on what a post-referendum deal between Britain and the EU should look like.

Intelligence Squared brought out the big guns for our debate on what a post-referendum deal between Britain and the EU should look like. Douglas CarswellPatrick Minford, Anna Soubry and Alexander Stubb battled over this all-important decision, and star BBC World News presenter Zeinab Badawi was in the chair.

So-called ‘hard Brexiters’ like Douglas Carswell are adamant that Britain must regain its status as a sovereign nation with full control of its borders, laws, money and trade. Anything less would be a betrayal of the majority who voted Leave in the referendum last June. If that means severe restrictions on Britain’s access to the single market, so be it. We don’t have to heed the warnings of the doom-mongerers: Britain is the world’s fifth largest economy and other countries, whether in or out of the EU, are going to want to do business with us. What’s more, Europe is beginning to look like a ticking time bomb. The eurozone is in crisis and Britain’s relatively healthy growth and unemployment figures show what a wise move it was not to sign up to the euro in 2002. And now things are looking decidedly scary, with Angela Merkel’s rashly generous immigration policies fuelling voter discontent across the continent, and populist parties on the rise in every member state. The response from EU leaders such as Jean-Claude Juncker to this disgruntlement? Ever closer integration, the very thing that the voters are rejecting. If the EU implodes, we’ll be grateful to have put ourselves at a safe distance.

This is rubbish, according to those who think the Leave vote was a mistake. If we have to go through with Brexit, then the UK should do everything it can to salvage our current relationship with our EU partners – and that means keeping access to the single market. Withdrawing from it would do untold damage to British jobs and prosperity, especially in our car industry and financial services. Countries such as Norway show that it is perfectly possible to be inside the single market but outside the EU, even if there is a price to pay in terms of membership dues and some compromise over freedom of movement from the member states. And let’s not kid ourselves that keeping out foreign workers will provide more jobs for British citizens. Our economy depends heavily on migrant workers, and if we don’t bring them in from outside we risk exporting many of our manufacturing jobs to foreign countries with cheaper labour.

This is the case that Anna Soubry and Alexander Stubb made. As Britain redefines its place in the world, major decisions will have to be made on what our priority should be – controlling our borders with Europe or keeping our markets open to it.


For the motion

Douglas Carswell

Former Conservative MP and UKIP MP

Former Conservative MP who in 2014 became the first elected Member of Parliament for UKIP, before quitting the party and sitting in Parliament as an independent until the 2017 general election. He is credited with being one of the main figures behind the Vote Leave campaign.

Patrick Minford

Co-chair of Economists for Brexit

Patrick Minford is co-chair of Economists for Brexit and Professor of Economics at Cardiff University. He was formerly director and founder of Liverpool Research Group which built the ‘Liverpool Model’ of the UK economy, which was hugely influential in forecasting and policy analysis in the 1980s.
Against the motion

Anna Soubry

Former Conservative MP who was leader of Change UK, which campaigned for a second referendum on the UK’s European Union membership

Conservative MP for Broxtowe in Nottinghamshire from 2010 to 2019. She was Minister for Small Business until July 2016 when she returned to the back benches. A vocal supporter of Britain remaining in the European Union, she backed the Remain campaign and in December 2017 was one of 11 Conservative rebels who voted in favour of Parliament being guaranteed a vote on the final Brexit deal. Soubry resigned from the Conservative Party in February 2019 and joined The Independent Group, which later became Change UK. In June that year she became the party’s leader. After Change UK failed to win any seats at the December 2019 general election, Soubry announced that the Independent Group for Change would be disbanded. 

Alexander Stubb

Former Prime Minister of Finland

Former Prime Minister of Finland from 2014 to 2015. He also served as Minister of Finance, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade. He has published 16 books and writes regularly for the Financial Times.

Zeinab Badawi

BBC World News presenter

BBC World News presenter.