Amber Rudd: UK to pursue ‘Norway plus’ if Brexit deal voted down

U.K. Secretary for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd said today she favored turning to a “Norway-plus” model if the prime minister’s Brexit deal fails to pass a crunch vote in Parliament next week.

The “Norway-plus” option, which would involve the U.K. staying in the single market, “seems plausible not just in terms of the country but in terms of where the MPs are,” Rudd told the Times in an interview published today.

But she admitted “nobody knows if it can be done.” The model would require drafting up a new customs union, or an equivalent arrangement, with the European Union to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

Rudd is the first Cabinet minister to publicly float a “Plan B” to Theresa May’s deal ahead of the Commons vote on Tuesday, where the weakened prime minister is facing an uphill battle to secure MPs’ support.

It would be difficult for the prime minister to back the Norway-plus model, Rudd acknowledged, because it would involve accepting the free movement of people.

But “the freedom of movement is really yesterday’s question — we are down to a six-year low for net migration from the EU,” she said. “It was a record high at the referendum.”

Rudd also said she did not rule out a second referendum on Brexit, saying: “If there was another referendum, I think we’re better off in.” But she warned that the country could become more divided as a result, and insisted she would “much rather do the withdrawal agreement and deliver on the outcome.”

A survey published by the Times today found that some 72 percent of Tory grassroots activists reject the PM’s Brexit deal and want their MP to do the same. Some 62 percent said May should resign if she fails to win the Commons vote next week.


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