The UK could pursue the so-called “Norway plus” option if Theresa May’s Brexit plan is rejected by MPs on Tuesday, according to Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd.
In an interview with the Times, Ms Rudd said she still supported the PM’s plan – but added a variation of Norway’s set-up was a “plausible” alternative.
Ms Rudd admitted, however, that she was not certain it could be done.
Norway plus would mean the UK remaining in the European Economic Area (EEA).
That, Ms Rudd said, “seems plausible not just in terms of the country but in terms of where the MPs are”.
Ms Rudd is the first minister to float an alternative plan publicly, if Mrs May’s deal is rejected by Parliament.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ms Rudd said Mrs May’s deal was “preferable” and the “best option” and it could be “chaotic” if it is rejected when MPs come to vote on the withdrawal agreement on Tuesday.
She said some people have a “perfect vision” of Brexit – but that was “not available”.
What is the Norway model?
- Norway is not a member of the EU but is in the European Economic Area, meaning it is part of the single market
- In return, it contributes to the EU budget, and has to follow most EU rules and laws, including the freedom of movement of goods, services, capital and people
- Norway is not part of the customs union, so, to avoid a hard Irish border, a new customs union (or equivalent arrangement) with the EU – a “Norway plus” solution – would be necessary
You can read a more detailed explanation of the Norway model here.
Despite discussing possible alternatives, Ms Rudd is still encouraging her colleagues to back Mrs May’s deal in Tuesday’s vote.
“I would say to the colleagues who are voting against the withdrawal agreement… anything could happen after that.
“As the prime minister says, you might not get your Brexit at all”, she told the Times.
“What we need is a compromise deal,” she told Today. “That’s what the prime minister has proposed and I would urge my colleagues to think about, first of all, why people voted to leave the European Union, what their interpretation is of that; and, secondly, what the alternatives are”.
She added: “If it doesn’t get through, anything could happen… and none of them are as good as the current arrangement.”
Ms Rudd said even if Mrs May loses vote she should stay on as prime minister.
“There is no question of her going,” she added.
By Nick Eardley, BBC political correspondent
The cabinet is supposed to be focused on selling Theresa May’s deal as the only show in town.
On Friday, ministers toured the country trying to sell it to the public ahead of Tuesday’s crucial vote.
As things stand it looks highly unlikely Mrs May will win the support of enough MPs – and much of the conversation in Westminster has moved on to what happens next.
Amber Rudd says her preferred Plan B is a Norway style arrangement, which would see the UK stay in the single market. But Ms Rudd’s suggestion would mean freedom of movement – a red line for the prime minister – continues.
Ms Rudd, who campaigned for Remain in 2016, also refused to rule out a further referendum, despite the prime minister doing so on multiple occasions.
“I can’t understand the hysteria around a People’s Vote if you believe in what you are trying to propose,” she told the Times.
“I’m not someone who has just changed my mind. If there was another referendum, I think we’re better off in.”
Mrs May announced a Brexit deal with the EU last month. However, it needs to be approved by Parliament – with MPs due to vote on Tuesday.
For what could happen after the vote, read here.