Morning Briefing: Cold water on "Norway for Now" - no deal bad, May's deal bad - EU workers worried
Norway has poured cold water on “Norway for Now”, an alternative Brexit model favoured by some Conservative MPs. The ruse, which would temporarily park the UK in the European Economic Area (of which Norway is the largest non-EU country) before flipping to a Canada-style free trade agreement later, has been torpedoed by the Norwegian PM during a visit to the country by Theresa May.
Erna Solberg said the idea of entering an organisation you intended to leave was “a little bit difficult for rest of us”.
In truth it is a deeply flawed plan, designed to hide the reality of how miserable Brexit will become until it is too late. It is also a plan that would create no end to the uncertainty that is already damaging investment and the economy.
Legal and policy experts have ruled out the Boles plan as unworkable and, as Solberg's comments reveal, unacceptable to other countries – either in the EU or EFTA. Read more in this report by Michael Emerson for InFacts.
To continue in the EEA would first require accession to European Free Trade Association. However it is unlikely existing EFTA states or the EU would agree to this, with a series of legal and practical problems creating a barrier to this plan ever being workable for Britain by March next year.
Far from taking back control, this plan would see continued application of EU rules as a condition of membership of the EEA and substantial payments to the EU budget.
Theresa May has also voiced reservations about the plan. But its nifty nixing by Norway adds to the pile of already dead Brexit options. No matter the amount of imaginative thinking, all the evidence shows the type of Brexit the government wants to be a fantasy. It's time for a proper rethink, and a People's Vote.
Quote of the Day
“We would welcome any good cooperation with Britain. But to enter into an organisation which you’re leaving [ie the EEA] is a little bit difficult for rest of us.”
Norwegian PM Erna Solberg pours cold water on the "Norway for Now" proposal.
Tweet of the day
Stephen Doughty takes Nick Boles - a champion of "Norway for Now" to task on Twitter. There's another option: a People's Vote.
No deal is bad, but so too is May's plan
The government’s feckless approach to negotiating Brexit, with five months to go and no certainty of getting any deal at all, has prompted global rating agency Standard & Poor’s to issue a dire “no deal” Brexit warning - including a recession, high unemployment and price hikes.
But with the fear factor cranking up, it’s crucial to remember that the deal May wants - though not as catastrophic - is also miserable, making the UK poorer, doing nothing to protect key industries, losing control as we become rule-takers, and dragging Brexit uncertainty out for years to come. Thankfully, there’s another option: a People’s Vote to ask the public if they want whichever form of Brexit the government plumps for.
S&P are doing the responsible thing by warning investors of potential trouble ahead. But that doesn’t mean voters and MPs can be stitched up by Theresa May’s “my deal or no deal” nonsense. If people want a genuinely brighter future, they should be able to say no to both May’s misery and the no-deal madness. The way to do that is to secure a People’s Vote on whatever Brexit outcome emerges.
Video of the day
Graphic of the day
‘Rigorous checks’ will worry EU workers
Number 10 continues to insist that EU citizens rights will be protected no matter what happens in Brexit. But the immigration minister didn’t sound so sure under the pressure of a home affairs committee hearing yesterday. Caroline Nokes told MPs that after Brexit employers could have to put EU nationals through “adequately rigorous checks” to prove their right to work - though she couldn’t say what those checks might entail. In an increasingly fractious exchange, Nokes also admitted that the app to apply for settled status - something the government wants all 3.5 million EU citizens in the UK to do - still doesn’t work on Apple devices.
These are not just problems for the future, they are having an impact on our EU-born friends, family, colleagues and neighbours right now. Promises of protected rights and certainty are blown apart by confusing responses by Home Office ministers. No wonder so many EU citizens are already leaving our health service and other key industries, as they watch ministers botch Brexit and fear how it will upend their lives.
Video of the day 2
WATCH: An excellent video from Remainer Now in which a bunch of Leave voters who have changed their minds went to Parliament to tell MPs why they now want a People’s Vote on the Brexit deal. Tell your MP what you think HERE.
Former Conservative chancellor George Osborne has spoken of “regrets” over mistakes made by the government which led to the Brexit vote. These include explaining the benefits of EU membership “too late”, making immigration targets which couldn’t be delivered and then not making “enough of the value of immigration”, he told the BBC.
Many people might be coming to the same conclusions, as we struggle through the fallout from the referendum. The threat to the economic prosperity and social rights that EU membership gives us, the strain that losing EU workers puts on our health service - we’re seeing the positive reasons for being in the EU taken away. But it’s not too late to save them - not if we get a People’s Vote on Brexit.
Graphic of the day 2
Here's a striking visualisation from the Lloyds Business Barometer via Bloomberg of exactly where we're at on business confidence in the UK right now.
More Brexit news…
Hugo Dixon: ‘Norway for now’ would mean no-deal Brexit later (Guardian)
Max Hastings: Our rudeness to European allies is shameful (Times £)
Charlotte Higgins: The new 50p has echoes of the first, disastrous Brexit (Guardian)
Today, Wednesday 31st October
|11.30||Northern Ireland questions in Commons|
|12.00||Prime Minister's Questions|
|14.15||OBR chief gives evidence to Treasury committee on Brexit|
|14.45||Hilary Benn evidence to procedure committee on "meaningful vote" on Brexit|
|15.30||Farming minister evidence to Scottish affairs committee on Brexit|
Tomorrow, Thursday 1st November
|-||MPs conclude debate on Budget, vote expected|
|-||ONS: Population statistics published|
|10.00||IFS chief gives evidence to Treasury committee on Budget|