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Cabinet ministers want to hear Stamford MP's Brexit alternative

Government ministers are showing interest in an alternative set of ‘soft’ Brexit proposals devised by Stamford MP Nick Boles.

The MP says four cabinet ministers have invited him to talk to them about his plan, known as the Norway option.

Nick Boles (5628330)
Nick Boles (5628330)

Mr Boles told the Financial Times today (Tuesday, November 27): “Even before the ink has dried, Tory MPs have concluded that the prime minister’s deal is dead on arrival. Desperate to avoid the calamities of crashing out with no deal, or a second referendum, most are seeking something else.”

Previously, Mr Boles has promoted an arrangement known as “Norway For Now”, which would have acted as a stepping stone towards an independent arrangement known as Canada-plus, as supported by leading Brexiteers like Boris Johnson.

However, Mr Boles says since then, it became clear Norway was not possible as a temporary option as the other members of the European Free Trade Association or the European Union would not allow this.

Other arrangement are also needed to allow a ‘soft’ border with Eire, he said.

The MP’s latest proposal, now called ‘Norway Plus’ involves accepting Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement in full — but renegotiating the political declaration to specify that, after the transition, the UK will join European Free Trade Association.

He continued: “We would also remain in a customs union until new arrangements have been agreed. Britain would need to swallow the Irish border backstop as drafted, but should ask for an explicit commitment from the EU to support the UK’s accession to Efta and facilitate our transfer into the Efta pillar of the EEA by December 2020 so that it never needs to be activated.

“We would be in the single market but outside the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. We would be outside of the common agricultural and fisheries policies — able to operate as an independent coastal state. We would no longer be bound by the EU’s drive towards “ever closer union” and, after the divorce settlement, would pay substantially less in annual contributions abroad.”

The UK would still be bound by freedom of movement, but if migration became too much, it could use an “emegency break to limit the numbers.”

The MP added: “Norway Plus strikes the right balance between fulfilling the mandate of the 2016 referendum while preserving economic ties with the EU.”

Mr Boles’ proposals come as a leading local Conservative attacked the deal Theresa May has agreed with Brussels.

Lincolnshire Conservative county councillor Colin Davie has tweeted: “Our Establishment are so desperate to sell the British people this dead parrot of a deal and sacrificing trust and years of hard work by Conservative activists in process.”

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