Norway-Plus Brexit Explained For Normal People Tired Of Reading About Brexit

Which is pretty much everyone by now.
imv via Getty Images

Another week, another new phrase coined in the name of Brexit.

This time it’s “Norway-Plus Brexit”, which Amber Rudd has suggested could be a plausible alternative to the deal MPs will vote on next week.

So, why should you care? Well, if you make it to the end of the article there’s a cracking little video of a cockatoo screaming into a cup.

Seriously, though, it could be quite important. Rudd, the new Work and Pension Secretary, reckons Norway-Plus (or Norway+ if you’re a bit trendy) is a decent alternative “not just in terms of the country but in terms of where the MPs are”.

Where Are The MPs?

All over the place to be honest.

Remind Me What’s Happening Next Week...

On Tuesday the Commons will vote on the PM’s Withdrawal Agreement but already it is expected to be rejected by MPs.

If this pans out, the risk of a no-deal Brexit and the chaos that would bring with it, increases.

A crunch week in a generally crunchy year for May.
A crunch week in a generally crunchy year for May.

What’s Norway Got To Do With It?

Norway-Plus is based on Norway’s relationship with the European Union as a member of the European Free Trade Association (Efta) and European Economic Area (EEA) - sort of like the Diet Coke version of being in the EU.

Being in the EEA after Brexit would keep the UK in the single market, meaning goods, services and people could continue to move within the bloc in the same way as before, therefore limiting the potential disruption to the economy.

On top of that, the “plus” bit of Norway-plus would involve a customs union with the EU, which, combined with the single market elements, would avoid a hard border with Ireland.

Sounds Pretty Good – Is It Popular?

When it comes to Brexit everything is popular, just not popular enough to satisfy a meaningful majority of Brits.

A cross-party group of MPs including Tory Nick Boles and Labour’s Stephen Kinnock have pushed the idea as a way of delivering Brexit – the UK will leave the European Union – while maintaining the closest possible relationship with Brussels.

Kinnock has claimed that at least 10 Cabinet ministers would back it if Mrs May’s deal is thrown out by MPs on December 11.

And Who’s On The Other Side?

Leave supporters view Norway-plus as “Brexit in name only” because it keeps the UK tied to Brussels’ rules, a customs union would restrict Britain’s ability to strike trade deals around the world and there would be no end to the free movement of EU migrants to the UK.

So It’s The Old Leave/Remain Split Once Again?

Not quite - Remainers who want a second referendum have also hit out at the option because they think a so-called People’s Vote is the best way forward if the Prime Minister’s plan fails.

In a report published on Friday, the People’s Vote campaign described it as “politically unrealistic”, adding “the ship has sailed”.

A foreword co-written by David Miliband, said: “When trust in politics is in such short supply, Norway Plus would not deliver the mandate of 2016 and it could hardly unite the country. Worse, still, some of the claims made for ‘Norway Plus’ are in danger of repeating the deeply misleading promises made for Brexit two years ago.”

Norway's Parliament building is an absolute beaut.
Norway's Parliament building is an absolute beaut.
Leonid Andronov via Getty Images

Does Norway Have Any Say In This?

Yup. 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.”

What Are The Chances I’m Going To Have To Remember All Of This?

Relatively high.

The current make-up of the House of Commons means that May’s deal looks set to be rejected and MPs are also expected to block a no-deal exit, leaving Norway-plus and the second referendum as two of the possible options on the way forward.

Brexiteers will continue to push for a looser free-trade arrangement but that could still leave issues around avoiding a hard border with Ireland.

It is unclear which, if any, option could secure a majority in the House.

So What’s The Bottom Line?

There isn’t one but here’s that video we promised you.

(We know you cheated).


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