Luciana Berger: The Norway option would leave Britain shivering in the frozen arctic tundra. We need a People’s Vote
The country must have the final say if the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal is defeated, writes Luciana Berger
This is a Brexit deal that satisfies no-one and solves nothing. It shows that what was promised can’t be delivered and it’s a much worse deal than the deal we’ve already got in the EU. If approved, it means Brexit will go on forever because all the big questions are still unanswered.
MPs tend to agree on very little these days, but it does seem that the only majority in the Commons on Brexit is a growing majority will be against the Prime Minister’s deal. At the time of writing, the Government has just faced a historic defeat following the majority of Parliament voting in support of the contempt motion. A vote against the deal on 11 December will not be a vote for ‘no-deal’. Instead it is a significant moment of Parliament taking back control of this process in the interests of our constituents and the country. Just as there’s no majority for the Government’s deal in Parliament, nor is there a majority of support in the country for any deal that makes us poorer, cedes power or leaves promises broken.
It’s against that background that MPs are coalescing around a variety of possible ways forwards – including renegotiation; the Norway model or a People’s Vote. It is patently clear from Brussels that renegotiation is not an option. It is sheer fantasy to believe that what couldn’t be achieved in two years of intense negotiation could somehow be won in two months after the Commons vote.
The other cause gaining popularity is the idea of a Norway-style membership of the EEA and EFTA. But acceding to EFTA – assuming the existing EFTA members would allow us to join and there is no guarantee of this – before becoming a non-EU member of the EEA would involve a treaty which would take so long to ratify it is ruled out as something to begin at the end of March 2019. Even if it was possible in time, the plan would see Britain remaining subject to EU rules, making significant payments to the EU Budget, subject to the EFTA court of justice and forced to accept freedom of movement for labour. Any solution that sees Britain unilaterally end its negotiations with the EU27 in favour of such an unachievable outcome would be a dangerous blindfold Brexit forcing Britain to take a leap into the unknown. Such an ill-thought through plan does not deserve the support of colleagues in the House of Commons.
Aiming for Norway at this stage would leave Britain shivering in the frozen arctic tundra. It would leave the UK as a rule-taker, having to obey laws made in Brussels with no say over any of them. And people who voted for Brexit thinking it would increase control would be right to ask: what’s the point? While it might be tempting for some MPs who voted Remain, they should be wary of a plan hatched with Nicholas Boles’s friend Michael Gove to get Brexit over the line. As Gove has stated publicly, any Brexit deal can be unpicked again after the UK has left and there can be little doubt he still wants a hard Brexit.
I am very clear that a choice between the Government’s lose-lose deal and no deal is no choice at all. Nor is there any kind of fantasy Brexit deal that can meet all the promises that were made back in 2016. The real choice now is whether to go ahead with the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal or stick with the deal we already have as members of the EU.
Now we know what Brexit will actually look like, the public should be given the opportunity to decide in a People’s Vote – is this the kind of deal we want, or is the deal we already have in the EU better? In the end, Parliament has the power to give this back to the people to have their final say.
Luciana Berger is Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree