Wales politics

Ken Skates: Access to EU single market without free movement

EU and Wales flags

Britain should have "free and unfettered access" to the European Union's single market without retaining free movement of people, Wales' Economy Secretary Ken Skates has said.

But Plaid Cymru AM Sian Gwenllian warned the Welsh Government should be "advocating membership of the single market" not just access.

Caroline Jones said UKIP would fight for "as low a tariff as possible".

While the Tories' Nick Ramsey said he wanted to be in the single market.

Mr Skates was speaking on BBC Wales' Sunday Supplement programme about the Labour AMs vote on Wednesday against a Plaid Cymru assembly motion to support "full membership" of the single market.

But he said it was "nonsense" they had sided with UKIP and the Conservatives on the issue.

Mr Skates said: "I think Plaid Cymru are somewhat confused in terms of what membership and access actually mean. I think they believe it comes without an obligation to have free movement of people.

"If they think you can pick and choose in terms of membership what you then have to comply with, they need to state very clearly they're in support of no change to immigration."

He said: "What [First Minister] Carwyn Jones and I and the Welsh Government have been crystal clear on is that we need free and unfettered access to the single market.

"In reality, what that means in a simple sense is you don't have tariffs.

"Even countries like Norway, the EEA countries like Iceland and Liechtenstein and so forth, don't describe themselves as members of the single market because being a member of the single market means you essentially have to be a member of the EU.

"What [Prime Minister] Theresa May has said... is there will be a bespoke rather than an 'off the shelf' deal which means the EEA option for the UK is something she's not seriously considering... It's there to be negotiated.

"In the absence of any other indication from the UK Government... we are saying we are filling that void at the moment with a compelling argument for ensuring that Britain retains unfettered access to the single market while also recognising that in the referendum immigration was a major issue so we cannot maintain free movement of people."

Ms Gwenllian told BBC Wales' Sunday Politics programme: "It seems to me they [Labour] have reached a hard Brexit position in line with what the Tories and UKIP are saying.

"It seems to me Plaid Cymru is the only party now united around what we think is the best deal for Wales."

Caroline Jones AM said: "We want to be with everyone in Europe. I think there will be a tariff [on access] but we will fight for as low a tariff as possible."

Mr Ramsey AM said: "Personally I would rather we were in the single market, whatever form that takes.

"We need some form of access to that market and I think we're all singing from the same hymn sheet on that."

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