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Henry Newman @HenryNewman
, 22 tweets, 5 min read Read on Twitter
The problem we are facing is that there are no easy Brexit solutions left if the deal fails in Parliament

An often cited so-called Plan B, Norway Plus, is not the simple off-the-shelf option it is often presented as

Now a deal is on table I'm not convinced it works

A thread 👇
2/ Its main parliamentary proponents suggest we would sign up to the current withdrawal agreement including backstop

[Note this is evolution from previous option of seeking to replace backstop with EEA]

They would seek to amend Political Declaration to set path to Norway Plus
3/ Those proponents want UK to be in (or stay in) EEA agreement AND to seek to accede to EFTA

They would need derogations/protocols to do this

At same time they want to agree a customs union with EU

Negotiating all this during the transition wouldn't be straightforward
4/ First we need agreement of EFTA states to allow us to join EFTA, as well as an agreement to allow us not to join EFTA bloc's FTAs - that derogation is so we can also form a customs union with EU (the plus bit of Norway Plus)

[I don't really see point of joining EFTA myself]
5/ Second we need agreement to move to EFTA pillar of EEA. That would need to agreed by all parties to EEA treaty which includes both EU (plus all its member in their own right) + Norway, Iceland & Liechtenstein

Proponents of Norway plus suggest this would be easy. I'm doubtful
6/ Even if the Political Declaration on the future was amended to point to Norway Plus it wouldn't simply be an automatic process to get there.

Having heard from various people here, in Brussels & member states I'm concerned this would be far from easy.
7/ Once we were sitting in transition trying to negotiate the accessions/protocols/derogations (as above) we would be over a barrel.

While we were trying to sort those, EU members would probably say gives us some more 🐟 and while we are at it let's have a Gibraltar row
8/ Meanwhile the @EU_Commission while welcoming at one level about Norway Plus, also have concerns. EU member states have other concerns

Add these together and they could quickly take away any advantages of Norway Plus and move it towards non-voting EU membership in all but name
9/ Brussels is worried we are too big to be treated exactly like Norway especially on Services

Others don't want us out of the Fisheries Policy & CAP, nor under EFTA Court & Surveillance Authority (rather than ECJ)

While they are at it we will prob end up asked to pay more £££
10/ What leverage would UK have to resist these demands if we had signed Withdrawal Agreement, given away path to better deal by amending Political Declaration & committed to avoiding backstop at all costs?

The EU may also insist on a new UK pillar requiring more negotiation
11/ Even if we did make it to Norway Plus, its hard to see it as sustainable

A senior Elysee view was that it wouldn't work for mid-term. They thought it inevitable that either -

We'd break agreement by refusing to do something from within it


We'd dump deal & fall out
12/ Even best version of Norway Plus would be much harder to swallow than current Brexit deal. In comparison to backstop -

Both would mean no full control over trade policy

But Norway Plus would also mean no full control over laws, money & borders. It would junk PM's red lines
13/ I'm also not definitively convinced there is actually a majority for Norway Plus in Parliament.

Labour frontbench are not endorsing it - saying instead they want a Strong Single Market deal

[whatever that is]
14/ Labour frontbench also seem to suggest they won't back a Customs Union that doesn't give us a seat at table on trade policy.

But that isn't on offer at this stage

[although I wouldn't definitively rule it out for further down line & other side of Article 50]
15/ Overall given naked mendacity of Labour's "exact same" benefits unicorn test what's to think they would back any deal PM offers?

She could be dragged to Norway only to see Labour say "no", perhaps outflanking @theresa_may on right - saying Norway doesn't end free movement
16/ I know many senior Labour backbenches are keen on a soft Brexit but it's not clear their party leadership would agree. What if Labour whipped hard against it?

The SNP could also find spurious reasons to oppose Norway, especially if they smell a path to new Brexit Referendum
17/ DUP might be interested but then would they feel that it actually delivers the Brexit they wanted?

And would they not worry that signing the withdrawal agreement could mean they get lumped with backstop anyway?
18/ We already have the Tory party tearing strips off each other over a deal that takes us right out the Single Market and points to a possible Canada Plus future

May embracing a closer relationship would risk exacerbating these splits further
19/ There might have been a chance that ERG and other Deal critics could have backed Norway for Now

[a previous incarnation of the "Plan B"]

But with no obvious path out of Norway Plus, that seems less likely

Also would MPs be convinced this path would really junk backstop?
20/ Overall Norway Plus might have worked once as easier route out, but it's hard to see it as preferable to the Deal other than in that could - could - attract cross-party support.

Its proponents in Parliament are not blind to its flaws & have been admirably honest about them
21/ And to be fair to them at least they've tried to formulate a clear Plan B which is more than can be said for other critics of the PM's Brexit plan.

[I say critics but many have said they will first vote for Deal then suggest Pivot].
22/22 Overall - is there a clear majority for any Brexit path?

We will know more in days ahead.

I don't rule out a Norway Plus Brexit being where we end up (though I certainly wouldn't favour it) but I don't think it's the panacea that some see it as.

But then what is? 😬
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