Tories blast Conservative as he says 'rejoin European single market over cost of living'

3 June 2022, 09:07 | Updated: 3 June 2022, 10:09

Tobias Ellwood was rounded on by Tory colleagues
Tobias Ellwood was rounded on by Tory colleagues. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

A Tory former minister has been rebutted after he suggested the UK should rejoin Europe's single market to help the country with the cost of living crisis.

Tobias Ellwood said there is an "appetite" for a rethink and claimed polling indicates "this is not the Brexit most people imagined".

The Bournemouth East MP, who chairs the Commons Defence Committee, said: "If an Army general, mid-battle, is mature enough to finesse his strategy to secure mission success, then Government should do the same."

He added that "more radical thinking is required if we are to energise our economy through these stormy waters" and that single market membership would resolve the issue surrounding the Irish border and promote Britain's European "credentials".

And while he admitted the free movement of people required under single market rules produced "understandable reservations" regarding benefit claims, he said the issue was not "insurmountable".

Writing in The House magazine, he said "one common standard" might be better for British industry, instead of firms following European and British regulations.

Tobias Ellwood promoted rejoining the single market
Tobias Ellwood promoted rejoining the single market. Picture: Alamy

"Let's not forget, both Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher endorsed this model, with the view that the potential economic benefits outweigh the drawbacks," he said.

"If joining the single market (with conditions) results in strengthening our economy, easing the cost-of-living crisis, settling the Irish problem at a stroke and promoting our European credentials as we take an ever greater lead in Ukraine, would it not be churlish to face this reality?"

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But his Conservative colleagues in Parliament rounded on his suggestion.

Treasury minister Simon Clarke said he was "pleased to reassure Mr Ellwood" that Britain would not rejoin the single market, which he said would "extinguish half the freedoms that make Brexit so important".

Commons Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat said: "Let's plan for the future and stop looking back. This decision is made."

Former chief whip Mark Harper said: "The UK voted to leave the EU. That meant leaving the single market and putting an end to freedom of movement. The end."

Lord Frost, the ex-Brexit minister, said of Mr Ellwood, who has withdrawn his support from Boris Johnson: "Brexit really is not safe in his hands or his allies'."