Jeremy Corbyn orders Labour MPs to back Norway-style soft Brexit plan

Posted On: 
1st April 2019

Labour MPs have been ordered to back a cross-party push for a Norway-style soft Brexit that would keep the UK in the single market and customs union, it has emerged.

The Labour leader will tell his MPs to get behind the 'Common Market 2.0' plan.
Credit: 
PA

In a significant boost for those touting the so-called 'Common Market 2.0' plan, Jeremy Corbyn's MPs will be told to get behind the proposal as Parliament again casts its verdict on a host of ways to try and break the Brexit deadlock through so-called 'indicative votes'.

The SNP has also confirmed it is rowing in behind the plan in a move it said was about "protecting jobs".

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about the second day of indicative Brexit votes

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But the push could spark a major rebellion among Brexit-backing Labour MPs, as a Norway-style deal would not end freedom of movement with the European Union.

Labour MP Kevin Barron has already vowed to vote against the plan, saying it was "not compatible" with the party's 2017 manifesto.

A Labour spokesperson said: "In line with our policy, we’re supporting motions to keep options on the table to prevent a damaging Tory deal or no deal, build consensus across the House to break the deadlock and deliver an outcome that can work for the whole country.”

Party sources confirmed that this meant Labour would be throwing its weight behind the soft Brexit plan - drawn up by a cross-party team including Tory MP Nick Boles and Labour's Lucy Powell and Stephen Kinnock - in Monday night's vote if Speaker John Bercow selects it for debate.

A similar plan last time lost by 188 votes to 283, but advocates are hoping that the second round of so-called indicative votes on Monday could see it emerge as a favourite among MPs.

Mr Boles told PoliticsHome he was "delighted" Labour was rowing in behind the plan.

"Common Market 2.0 comes closer to Labour’s stated policy than any other compromise so it is very welcome to have their full support," he said.

SNP: WE WILL BACK BOLES AMENDMENT

The plan also received a boost when the SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford confirmed his party's 35 MPs will be ordered to get behind it.

He told BBC News: "The key thing for us is we stay in the European Union, we want to revoke Article 50, we want to put it back to the people in a People's Vote - but we will be prepared to compromise on the basis of protecting jobs, staying in the single market and customs union, so we will vote for the Boles amendment."

The Common Market 2.0 plan would see Britain ask to join the European Free Trade Association alongside Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, before joining the European Economic Area (EEA), a common market with the European Union.

Advocates of the plan argue that it would ease the economic impact of Brexit and take Britain back to the original vision of an EU-wide 'Common Market' without being involved in the bloc's political project.

But critics argue that the proposal would leave the UK at the mercy of EU single market regulations and directives with no substantive say in how they are drawn up.

It would also require Britain to accept the free movement of people in most circumstances - contradicting key manifesto pledges from both Labour and the Conservatives.

SECOND REFERENDUM PUSH

Labour sources also confirmed that the party would on Monday night again be whipping MPs to support a push for a second Brexit referendum tabled by backbencher Peter Kyle, if it is selected for consideration by Speaker John Bercow.

MPs will also be ordered to back a bid by Labour backbencher Graham Jones to secure a referendum designed to try and stop the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

The party will also row in behind a plan for any Brexit deal agreed with the EU to include the UK remaining in a permanent customs union with the bloc.

That plan last time lost by 264 votes to 272, the smallest defeat of any options considered in the first batch of indicative votes.

Baffled by Common Market 2.0? Read our sister title The House magazine's interview with the key figures behind the plan