Theresa May could be forced to back a ‘Norway-style’ soft Brexit as the model is favoured by “at least” 10 of her cabinet ministers, Labour MP Stephen Kinnock has claimed.
The prime minister’s withdrawal plan is expected to be resoundingly rejected by MPs on Tuesday, when a “meaningful vote” will take place in the Commons and pressure is mounting on the government to produce a ‘plan B’ Brexit.
Kinnock and Tory MP Nick Boles have been among the leading figures calling on the government to back a ‘Norway plus’ deal, which would see the UK remaining in the single market and customs union.
Others such as Labour’s David Lammy and former education secretary Justine Greening believe the only way out of the deadlock is a second referendum.
But Kinnock has said there is significant support for a soft Brexit around the cabinet table.
“It’s been great to work across party divides. The country is crying out for us to put our narrow tribalism to one side,” he told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme.
“We understand that there are at least 10 cabinet ministers who are supporting this arrangement.
“What we need the prime minister to do, when she loses the vote on Tuesday, is to go on to the steps of Downing Street and make a very clear statement that we must pivot now to Norway-plus.”
The plan is thought to be gathering support as it avoids the need for a hard border in Northern Ireland and any backstop clause – which has proved to be so controversial with DUP MPs that prop up the government.
But the idea was rejected by Heidi Nordby Lunde, an MP in Norway’s governing Conservative party, and leader of Norway’s European movement.
Saying her views reflected those of her party, she told the Guardian: “Really, the Norwegian option is not an option. We have been telling you this for one and a half years since the referendum and how this works, so I am surprised that after all these years it is still part of the grown-up debate in the UK.
“You just expect us to give you an invitation rather than consider whether Norway would want to give you such an invitation. It might be in your interest to use our agreement, but it would not be in our interest.”
Should May’s deal be defeated, as seems likely amid reports the loss could run into triple figures, the PM has 21 days to return to parliament to set out an alternative plan.
Tory former minister Jo Johnson, who quit his government post to oppose the Brexit deal and call for a second referendum, has also said that Norway-plus was a “non-starter” which would leave the UK as a “nation of lobbyists” seeking to influence rules set in Brussels over which it had no say.
“That’s a fundamental democratic deficit that I think is going to be, in time, unsustainable and completely unacceptable for us as a democracy,” he added.