Liberal Democrats

15 Conservatives who used to be big fans of the single market

By , Jan 17, 2017 11:01

Shipping containers at a port.

Earlier today, Theresa May announced that her plan for Brexit includes Britain leaving the single market, despite the fact that the single market is vital for jobs, our economy and public services and despite the fact that 90% of people want to stay in the single market.

But the Conservatives haven't always been so gung-ho about destroying our economy. Here's what a few senior Tories used to say about the importance of the single market...

Phillip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer

I believe that it is essential that we protect our access to the Single European Market…our economy over 40 years has been shaped by that access and to lose that access now would be catastrophic.

If we lose [access] I fear we will find ourselves sliding gently down the league table, getting relatively poorer. That is not an outcome I want to see for this country.

Video: Phillip Hammond on Peston


We want to have access to the single market. We want British companies to be able to go on selling their goods and services into the single market, as they have done before, and that applies to Scottish businesses as much as it applies to English, Welsh or Northern Irish businesses.

Telegraph Article (July 2016)

Amber Rudd, Home Secretary

Many issues are important in the European Union but the most important is our access to the single market.

The EU benefits to people's everyday lives and what matters to people are jobs, prices, investment in hospitals and schools. People's everyday lives are linked to the economy. It would be misleading to separate the two.

ITV News (7 June 2016)

Boris Johnson, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

There will continue to be free trade, and access to the single market

Telegraph (26 June 2016)

Michael Fallon

What is important for car manufacturers from overseas, such as Nissan, and for all foreign investors in Britain is that the single market is strengthened and available to them. One of the purposes of our reform programme in Europe is to ensure that the member states that do not wish to become enmeshed in the eurozone can still enjoy the full protection and opportunities of the single market.

Parliament: Exports (23 January 2014)

Our prosperity depends on our trade in goods, services and intellectual capital. Almost half our exports go into a European single market bigger than the United States. Our businesses have access to 500 million people with no tariffs or bureaucratic barriers. And over three million jobs in Britain rely on it. We have to be there to shape the rules that govern that trade.

All that is certain about a vote to Leave is the uncertainty that would come with it. Uncertainty for sterling, for our access to the biggest free-trade single market in the world, and for our financial services industry, which relies on the ‘passport’ of EU membership to sell across the continent.

‘I’m a Eurosceptic, Conservative – and Remainer. Why I believe our security and prosperity are safer in the EU’ (June 2016)

Liz Truss, Secretary of State for Justice & Lord Chancellor

We have on our doorstep access to a single market of 500 million people for our fantastic UK products. I think we need to build on that, rather than leave the European Union. No single country has full access for agricultural products without being a full member of the EU.

I believe that farmers are better off remaining in a reformed EU. The vast majority of our exports are to the EU—for example, 97% of lamb exports and 92% of beef exports. As part of the single market, we do not face the tariffs and barriers that we face in trying to export to other countries. That is vital for the health of our farming industry.

Parliament: Farming and the EU (17 March 2016)

Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education

That’s why Margaret Thatcher set about getting the Single Market in place – so that British companies could get on with competing – and they have done that very successfully, which is why we export so much to the rest of Europe. Our car manufacturers – now a net exporter for the first time since the 1970s – need that level playing field, not to be at a disadvantage with tariffs trading from outside it. I can’t see the point of leaving the Single Market and the level playing field to then try instantly to rejoin it. If you’re not in a club, you’re not going to be given the same benefits as others who are – otherwise what would be the point?

‘The single market. World engagement. A brighter future for young people. Why I will be voting Remain.’ (May 2016)

Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

If we left the EU, we would be left outside the European single market. We would have to try to negotiate a way for our businesses to access their customers across Europe. With no say in setting them, the rules of the market would be used to favour EU members at the expense of British firms and British jobs. I think it's far better for Britain to help make the rules rather than have to follow the rules set by others – our competitors.

Personal Website (25 Feb 2016)

Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health

The first part of the plan must be clarity that we will remain in the single market. We are the world’s greatest trading nation. We have shaped the world and the world has shaped us through our history of being open to free trade and championing it more than any other. It is not just at the heart of our economic success – it is also at the heart of our identity as one of the most open, liberal, outward-looking societies anywhere. So the British Government needs to calm markets and many worried investors and businesses, both locally and internationally, by making it clear that it is an explicit national objective to remain in the single market even as we leave the institutions of the EU.

So our plan must be to encourage them to reform those rules, thereby opening up a space for a “Norway plus” option for us – full access to the single market with a sensible compromise on free movement rules.

‘We can win a better deal for Britain – it's the only way the EU can save itself’ (27 June 2016) 

Damian Green, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I am confident that the view that we should stay in a reformed Europe will appeal to the British people, and that those who think as I do will win the referendum vote. So from that point of view, bring it on! There are a number of economic reasons for that: the capacity to negotiate on trade benefits that millions of people in this country get from the single market

Parliament: EU (Referendum) Bill (17 October 2014)

All four of the Prime Minister’s demands in these negotiations are important, but making sure that we as a country continue to enjoy the full benefits of the single market without being a member of the eurozone is clearly vital for millions of British jobs.

Parliament: European Union (12 January 2016)

Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

The EU’s financial services passport means that financial services firms authorised in the UK can provide their services across the EU, without the need for further authorisations. That is, of course, a significant benefit that they receive. Services represent almost 80% of our economy, and access to the world’s largest single market helps them to create thousands of British jobs.

Parliament: Balance of Trade, Services (15 March 2016)

We should consider the benefits of the single market. With 500 million consumers, it is the world’s largest economic zone, and there is no doubt that it helps to generate jobs throughout Britain, including in Greater Manchester.

Parliament: Business Regulation (3 May 2016)

David Lidington, Leader of the House of Commons

If we were outside the single market, and World Trade Organisation rules applied, we could expect that 10% tariff on every car exported to the rest of Europe from the United Kingdom, which is why exit would be such a bad deal.

Parliament: EU Referendum (12 April 2016)

Ruth Davidson, Leader of the Scottish Conservatives

I want to stay in the single market. Even if a consequence of that is maintaining free movement of labour.


David Mundell, Secretary of State for Scotland

It is a fundamental part of the growth in Scotland’s economy that we are part of a single market within our United Kingdom.

Parliament: Economic Growth (6 January 2016)

Alun Cairns, Secretary of State for Wales

Membership of the European Union’s single market is good for businesses in Wales.

Parliament: EU Membership (4 March 2015) 

Theresa May

So the single market accounts for a huge volume of our trade, but if it is completed – so there are genuinely open markets for all services, the digital economy, energy and finance – we would see a dramatic increase in economic growth, for Britain and the rest of Europe.

The Capital Markets Union – initiated and led by Britain – will allow finance to flow freely between member states: the first proposal alone could lead to £110 billion in extra lending to businesses. A completed energy single market could save up to £50 billion per year across the EU by 2030. And a digital single market is estimated to be worth up to £330 billion a year to the European economy overall.

As Britain is the leading country in Europe when it comes to the digital economy, that is an enormous opportunity for us all. These changes will mean greater economic growth in Britain, higher wages in Britain and lower prices for consumers – in Britain.

Theresa May, Speech to Institute of Mechanical Engineers, 25 April 2016

Vote Leave

And as an extra bonus for making it this far, here's what the Vote Leave Campaign had to say on the subject:

The idea that our trade will suffer…is silly

Vote Leave, What Happens When We Vote Leave

The EU’s supporters say ‘we must have access to the Single Market’. Britain will have access to the Single Market after we vote leave"

Vote Leave, What Happens When We Vote Leave

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