Norway Plus, the increasingly touted cross-party plan for the UK to leave the EU, but join Norway in a free trade trade area inside the EU single market, has been rejected by senior Norwegian politicians and business as “neither in Norway nor the UK’s interest”. The UK would need Norway’s permission to join its EFTA club.
The rejection is a blow to an influential cross-party group led by the Tory MP Nick Boles with private cabinet support that is looking for a Plan B if, as expected, Theresa May’s deal is rejected by MPs next Tuesday.
Norway Plus was also condemned on Friday by David Miliband, the former Labour foreign secretary, and Jo Johnson, the former Conservative universities minister, as throwing away a key advantage of current membership “in the form of our vote, voice and veto around the table”.
Their joint assault on Norway Plus, in a pamphlet written by the People’s Vote campaign, is in some senses confirmation that the Boles plan could become a credible rival to a second referendum as a MPs search for a way out of a potential Commons deadlock.
The two men insist Norway Plus “would not be easy to negotiate, would not mean reduced payments to the EU and would allow the UK to end freedom of movement for migrants from the EU”.
Norway Plus, the softest form of Brexit, requires the UK to seek to apply the European Free Trade Area grouping consisting of Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein. The scheme, as revised by Boles, would require the UK also to remain in the European Union customs union indefinitely or at least until a solution to the border in Ireland could be found.