A cross-party group of MPs have called for parliament to be given the power to veto the UK’s exit from the single market.
Conservative MP Anna Soubry and Labour MPs Stephen Kinnock and Heidi Alexander joined forces on Tuesday to ask for a Commons debate be held on whether parliament should have to approve the UK’s exit from the the European Economic Area (EEA)
The EEA treaty, signed in 1994, extends the single market beyond the current 28 EU members to non-EU states Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland.
The government has argued that the UK will automatically leave the EEA when it leaves the EU in March 2019.
But speaking to the backbench business committee, which allocates some Commons debates, Kinnock said this was wrong.
“There is a very strong legal school of opinion which takes the opposite view and believes it’s necessary for the UK to trigger departure from EEA as a separate parallel process to Brexit,” he said.
The EEA agreement, signed by Britain, states that to legally leave, a country must trigger article 127 of the treaty at least 12 months in advance of quitting.
Pro-Remain MPs hope there is no Commons majority to leave the single market and will be able to force the government into a so-called soft Brexit.
Even a victory in a non-binding vote asking parliament be given a right to veto leaving the EEA would increase pressure on Theresa May.
The bid for a debate is backed by Conservative, Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem and SNP MPs.
The motion that would be debated and voted on, perhaps as soon as November 6, states:
That this House recognises that to exit the European Economic Area (EEA) the United Kingdom must trigger Article 127 of the EEA Agreement, and that this House calls on the government to give Members of this House a binding Parliamentary vote on the triggering of Article 127 of the EEA Agreement and continued British membership of the (EEA).
Alexander told the parliamentary committee that allocates time for debates there was a concern government would trigger article 127 by the “backdoor” using its EU Withdrawal Bill.
“The governments position is moving towards a state where will see the formal notification of the UK leaving the EEA,” she predicted.
“To coincide with leaving the EU at then end of March 2019, this might be something government is considering doing in early months of next year to comply with that.”
Soubry said “bizarrely” there had been few Commons debates on the “nuts and bolts” of Brexit despite it being “the most important topic in decades”.
“Without that I think it is not only bad for democracy, I think it is bad for Brexit, because it’s not seen to involve people,” she said.