Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, told the Times that a ‘Norway’-type deal is “plausible not just in terms of the country but in terms of where MPs are”.
Such a deal would involve joining the European Free Trade Association (Efta), alongside Norway. May is strongly opposed to the idea, because it would involve the UK accepting free movement of workers from the EU – the “red line” to which she has long demonstrated an unshakable commitment.
The idea is also said to be gaining ground amongst some Labour MPs (eg Stephen Kinnock), though JC himself is said to be opposed and, on the evidence of his Guardian piece on Friday, remains wedded to spouting incoherent nonsense about a non-existent “alternative plan” for Brexit involving all the benefits of EU membership without any of the responsibilities and (the Guardian piece strongly implies) no Irish backstop.
The simple truth is that Norway (or “Norway-plus”) means being inside a single market, and accepting all of the conditions that comes with that, but having no say over the rules that govern that single market. It means that Britain also would not be able to do separate trade deals to those done by the EU, because as Trump highlighted (in one of the very few true things he’s ever said), the conditions required by the EU single market will conflict with the rules required by the US, or China, or India, or whoever the UK might want to do some other trade deal with, and vice versa.
Norway does not provide a Customs Union, without which the Northern Ireland problem is not resolved. Britain could seek a separate Customs Union arrangement (“Norway-plus”) like that of Turkey, but again that means that there is no possibility of negotiating separate trade deals to those negotiated by the EU itself. In fact,as the government’s economic analysis shows even on an optimistic estimate, any such new deals that could be negotiated by being outside the EU, only make 0.2% difference to UK GDP anyway, so its an advantage not worth having all of the costs and disruption for.
So, a) Norway does not enable the UK to negotiate separate trade deals, which Labour’s Six Tests requires, and b) it does not enable the UK to have any say in determining the rules of the single market, or were a Customs Union deal added to it, any role in determining the rules of the CU either, which also thereby breaches Labour’s Six tests.
Even if it didn’t breach those six fatuous tests posed by the Labour leadership, and Labour like May was forced into the reality that in order to obtain a deal it has to capitulate on its own negotiating requirements, why would any sane government do that? Why would you place yourself in exactly the same economic and trading relationship you have with the EU and the rest of the world that you have now, but in the process give up your right to have a seat at the table determining the rules and regulations of the single market and customs union that you have thereby committed yourself to abiding by?
‘Plan B’ is being thrown up as a distraction from the real point that May’s deal should simply be voted down. Neither May nor Mogg would actually push through a No Deal Brexit in March, because they know it would spell utter catastrophe for the UK economy, which would destroy the Tory Party, for a generation if not forever. Capital would never allow them to push through such a No Deal Brexit. Markets won’t crash on 11th December, because they have discounted May losing the vote, and have equally discounted any chance that May would push through a No Deal.
But, if she or Mogg did have some kind of mental aberration, and appear to be pushing a No Deal, then markets really would sell off, the Pound would crash, as suggested in the Bo E’s analysis, and within hours, the government would make clear that it was not pushing ahead with a No Deal, and would instead make hurried arrangements to scrap Brexit and restore stability. It would probably do so by agreeing to a General Election to leave Labour the mess to clear up, as they normally do. It would involve extending Article 50.
The question then is what does Labour say in this General Election? Does it mindlessly parrot the “we must respect the referendum” nonsense, or does it take up its responsibility to provide leadership, and come out clearly to say “Brexit is reactionary, and we will scrap it”? It should clearly do the latter
- Thanks to ‘Boffy’ commenting BTL at All That Is Solid
- for much of the material used in this post