Labour will back People’s Vote over Norway. It’s about timing

by Richard Brooks | 07.12.2018

Politics in many ways, is like comedy. Partially because you can’t not laugh at the shoddy state of affairs we find ourselves in, but also because – timing is everything. And timing will be what does it for the “Norway Plus” alternative Brexit plan floating around the Westminster Village right now.

It has become painfully clear that the government’s bad Brexit deal is almost certainly not going to make it through Parliament next week. Predictably, there have been a number of options mooted as to the next steps forward. A number of senior Conservatives – Nick Boles and Oliver Letwin to name a few – have been advocating this “Norway Plus” model.

Perhaps more importantly, the idea has some traction amongst parts of the Labour Party – who would be needed for any shift in direction about Brexit. There is a sense that Norway could deliver on the mandate of the 2016 referendum, whilst mitigating economic damage.

But Stephen Kinnock, Labour’s leading proponent of Norway, is looking increasingly lonely on Labour’s benches. Whilst there were 76 pro-EEA rebels in the summer, that ship has now sailed. The overwhelming majority of those Labour MPs now back a People’s Vote.

Which is where we come back to comedy and timing.

Because the first and most obvious problem is that there simply isn’t time to try and re-negotiate any Brexit deal. To negotiate a new deal, pass it through Parliament and the other 27 EU countries is a process that takes years, not days. Even if there was a possibility to re-open negotiations – and the EU27 has been entirely clear this isn’t the case – there simply wouldn’t be enough time.

And the idea that EU leaders would unanimously agree to extend Article 50 for another few months, clashing with looming European elections, just to get a similarly chaotic outcome in London is the stuff of fantasy.

Even if time were no issue, it’s clear that there is no majority in parliament for a Norway-style arrangement anyway. There are good reasons for this. It doesn’t end freedom of movement; a clear red line for the Brexiters, but also a worry for Labour MPs in seats that voted Leave in 2016. It doesn’t solve the Irish border problem, as the EEA is not a customs union, and customs checks will still have to apply between the UK and EU states. Finally, it isn’t what the public or party members want – in particular in Labour where 86% of members want a People’s Vote.

Even the struggles at the top of the Labour party are all about a People’s Vote now. Unite leader Len McCluskey and shadow chancellor John McDonnell are at loggerheads over how Labour voters will react if the party backs a People’s Vote.

Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn penned a Guardian column slating Norway Plus for leaving the UK as “an across-the-board rule-taker of EU regulations without a say”. The Labour leader put forward his own alternative Brexit plan, but this suffers from much the same problems outlined above.

It looks instead that, as Keir Starmer urged recently, after the government’s deal is voted down Labour will “move quickly through the gears”, eradicating other options and landing on a People’s Vote.

It’s all a question of timing.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

Tags: , Categories: UK Politics

5 Responses to “Labour will back People’s Vote over Norway. It’s about timing”

  • Moreover, as Norwegian Conservative MP Heidi Nordby Lundee wrote today in the Guardian about the Norway option:

    “it really surprises me that anyone would think Norwegians would find that appealing. It would be like inviting the rowdy uncle to a Christmas party, spiking the drinks and hoping that things go well. They would not.”

    She added: ” we’re not interested in being the rebound girl while you look for better options.”

  • Are there any MPs who are committed remainers brave enough to stand up and advocate revoking A50- either now or when they think the time is appropriate? That is an option I would like to see raised.

  • I agree that we need a People’s Vote but we also need the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth from MPs and other public figures who will be shouting at us with their ‘advice’ in the run up to the Vote.
    No more Boris style lies and half truths and guessing dressed up as ‘facts’ . The young people who were not old enough to vote in 2016 should also be actively encouraged to vote, it will be their future.

  • Norway is a total red herring and no remainer should fall for it.

    The only reason Tories support it is because it relieves some of the pressure imposed by article 50’s 2 year time limit.

    The EU would have no motive to negotiate a Canada style deal with us if we found ourselves in such an arrangement, so the only purpose it serves from a Tory perspective is buying more time for them to decide if they’re going their separate ways and (from a brexiter point of view) to prepare for no deal.

    It’s a supreme piece of cynicism, where, as usual, the British people and their problems which led to brexit in the first place, can simply be parked while the Tories have a bit more space and time to argue with each other.