Norway Plus

Labour’s number one priority is to force a general election by tabling and winning a motion of no confidence in the government, and rightly so.

However, if our motion of no confidence is not passed by the House of Commons, then we must be ready to explore all other steps and options.

For over two years now i have been arguing for a Norway plus-based Brexit, and I am working with a cross-party group of MPs to achieve that aim.

Below is an explanation of how Norway plus would work in practice. I hope that you find will it useful and informative.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me by e-mail on stephen.kinnock.mp@parliament.uk, should you have any questions

 

The Brexit negotiations have reached crunch point.

The Prime Minister has agreed a deal with the European Union.

In a few weeks MPs will have to vote. The parliamentary arithmetic looks very challenging.

The chances of no deal are rising day-by-day.

The UK needs a Plan B.

One that can work for the UK and the EU.

One that both Leavers and Remainers can back.

One that delivers on the referendum result.

That plan is ‘Norway Plus’.

Norway Plus is the only alternative plan that the EU might sign up to at this late stage

Norway Plus is the only alternative plan which might win a Parliamentary majority

Norway Plus is the only alternative plan that would protect jobs and preserve the Union of the UK

What is involved in Norway Plus?

  • The UK accepts the current draft Withdrawal Agreement in full but renegotiates the Political Declaration and agrees that Norway Plus will be the basis of our future relationship with the European Union

  • At the end of the transition (or sooner by agreement), the UK joins the European Free Trade Association (EFTA)

  • On its accession to EFTA, the UK moves into the EFTA pillar of the European Economic Area (EEA), the common market that binds the economies of the EU with the economies of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein

  • At the same time the UK joins a customs union or other customs arrangement with the EU, which makes it possible to maintain no hard border in Ireland in perpetuity

  • As soon as the UK's membership of the EEA has been reactivated by our accession to EFTA, the backstop protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement falls away

  • By December 2020 the UK leaves the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and joins the EFTA Court

  • By December 2020 the UK leaves the Common Agricultural Policy

  • By December 2020 the UK leaves the Common Fisheries Policy and becomes an independent coastal state

  • After December 2020 the UK remains in the Single Market and can take part in EEA/EFTA "decision-shaping" for new Single Market regulations and directives

  • After December 2020 the UK remains subject to freedom of movement but has a new reserve power which might be used to impose temporary limits on immigration if "serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties" arise

  • After December 2020 the UK remains outside the Schengen 'open borders' regime

What are the advantages of Norway Plus?

Norway Plus is the only alternative deal that the EU is ready to sign up to

  • EEA and EFTA already exist so joining them wouldn’t require the negotiation of a bespoke set of arrangements

  • Unlike a Canada-style Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the EU could agree to Norway Plus straight away

  • The EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, and both the Irish and Norwegian Prime Ministers have all spoken in favour of the idea

Norway Plus is the only deal that can win a Parliamentary majority

  • Unlike a Canada-style FTA, no deal or a second referendum, Norway Plus is likely to secure the support of a majority of MPs

  • Norway Plus would deliver the result of the 2016 referendum on schedule

  • Norway Plus provides a platform from which we could negotiate a longer-term deal securing greater control

Norway Plus is the only alternative deal that would protect jobs and preserve the union of the UK

  • Unlike a Canada-style FTA and no deal, Norway Plus would prevent a hard border in Ireland

  • Norway Plus would protect manufacturing supply chains and jobs, and maintain frictionless trade with the EU

  • Norway Plus would not require Northern Ireland to accept different rules than the rest of the UK

Norway Plus Q&A

Is there enough time to negotiate a Norway Plus agreement before March 2019?

Norway Plus would not require any change in the Withdrawal Agreement.  There is more than enough time to negotiate and conclude a new Political Declaration enshrining Norway Plus as the basis for the UK's future relationship with the EU. The transition ("Implementation Period") would give us the time we would need to finalise and implement the agreement with the EU and the EFTA states.

Isn’t it clear that the EU won’t agree to the UK pursuing a Norway-style arrangement?

No. Michel Barnier, the EU’s Chief Negotiator, has always said that a model that combined EEA/EFTA and a customs union was one that he would be happy to consider. Norway Plus would preserve frictionless trade and not threaten the EU’s cherished ‘4 freedoms’. 

To join the EEA doesn’t the UK have to be a member of the EU or EFTA first?

The UK is already inside the EEA and would be able to retain membership.  We would apply to join EFTA and the EFTA pillar of the EEA.

Is a customs arrangement that preserves no hard border in Ireland compatible with article 56(3) of EFTA?

It will involve a derogation from the EFTA Agreement that will require the approval of the existing EFTA states. Both the Norwegian Prime Minister and the Icelandic Foreign Minister have stated publicly that they would welcome a British application to join EFTA and stay in the EEA. Furthermore it would be in their interests to do so. The UK is Norway’s largest export market. We are Iceland’s second largest market.

Will the UK have a unilateral right to leave the EEA/EFTA at a time of its own choosing?

Indefinite membership of EEA/EFTA and a customs arrangement would be the basis for the UK's future relationship with the EU. Under the EEA Agreement members have the right to withdraw with one year’s notice.

Doesn’t Norway Plus still have the same problems with the Irish backstop as Chequers?

As members of EEA and EFTA, with continuity in our current customs and VAT arrangements, there would be no need for any regulatory, customs or VAT checks at any border between the UK and the EU.

What will the border look like under a Norway Plus arrangement?

Michel Barnier has confirmed that Norway Plus is the only Brexit option that delivers frictionless trade. There would be no need for any new checks at the border. 

Will the UK’s immigration policy from Europe change under Norway Plus?

If the U.K. enters the EFTA pillar of the EEA, workers from elsewhere in the EEA will have the right to work in the U.K. However, the position will be better than the position before Brexit in two ways:

- first, under Article 112 (1) of the EEA Agreement, we will have an ‘emergency brake’ which will allow us to cap migration if events give rise to “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties of a sectorial or regional nature”; and

- second, as a result of the Government’s preparations for Brexit, we are registering all EEA nationals in the UK; we will therefore be in a position to identify any EEA nationals who settle in the U.K. but do not find work within a few months, and will be able to remove them.

How much money will the UK send to Brussels under the Norway Plus option? Will we still pay a €39bn divorce bill on leaving the EU?

We would sign the draft Withdrawal Agreement so we would honour the €39 billion divorce settlement. As members of the EFTA pillar of the EEA we would pay for what we access from Single Market programmes and agencies. This would substantially less than our contribution as member of the EU.

Doesn’t the Norway Plus arrangement prevent the UK from securing its own trade deals?

To avoid a hard border in Ireland the UK would enter a comprehensive customs arrangement with the EU. When the UK and the EU agree new systems and procedures which remove the need for customs checks at the Irish border, the UK will be free to sign trade deals with third parties or become a party to EFTA's existing free trade agreements.

How long would Norway Plus last?

Indefinitely. The Norway Plus relationship would take the UK out of the EU and maximise our options for the future. There would be no time limit on our membership but nor could the UK be kept in the EEA against our will.

Is this being put forward as an alternative to the Prime Minister’s deal, or only as a plan B in case the PM either fails to get a deal or fails to get a majority for her deal in the Commons?

The Norway Plus plan has many advantages. But it is being proposed as a Plan B which would deliver Brexit and avoid the chaos of no deal.

Recent coverage of Norway Plus

Stephen Kinnock in New European - 29th November 2018:

Forget a second vote – Norway is the only way to avoid the cliff

Erma Solberg, Norwegian Prime Minister - 28th November 2018:  

Norway may help "find solutions" if Britain seeks to join EFTA -PM

Guðlaugur Þór, Icelandic Foreign Minister - 27th November 2018:

There is a lot of misunderstanding about #EFTA #EEA in the UK

Stephen Kinnock on BBC News - 26th November 2018:

Support is growing among backbenchers and May's cabinet for Norway Plus.

The Guardian - 26th November 2018:

Ministers consider backing ‘Norway plus’ as Brexit plan B

Nick Boles in the FT - 27th November 2018:

Only the ‘Norway Plus’ plan can save Brexit

Nicola Sturgeon in the Guardian - 27th November 2018:

'Norway-plus' Brexit option gaining ground, says Nicola Sturgeon

Stephen Kinnock in the Guardian - 8th May 2018:

With the EEA vote, the Lords can set Theresa May on the right Brexit path

 

There is still time to negotiate Norway Plus...

Foundations of Norway Plus

The Norway Plus plan is based on ideas and legal arguments that have been developed and tested by leading statesmen, academics and lawyers during the course of the two years since the referendum.

Former Foreign Secretary Lord David Owen is the most distinguished advocate of the idea that the UK should assert its right to stay in the European Economic Area after Brexit. A passionate and principled supporter of the Leave campaign, Lord Owen believes that the UK should negotiate a Canada-style free trade agreement from within the EFTA pillar of the EEA:

http://www.lorddavidowen.co.uk/

Former Lord Justice of Appeal Sir Richard Aikens, Professor George Yarrow of the Regulatory Policy Institute and Professor Guglielmo Verdirame of Kings College, London recently published a legal opinion on the strength of the UK's claim to full Treaty rights under the EEA Agreement after Brexit:

http://www.lorddavidowen.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/BfB-EEALegal-Briefing-21-August-2018.docx

Their arguments are supported by a large number of QCs and leading practitioners of international and European law.

The most influential of them is Professor Dr Carl Baudenbacher, former President of the EFTA Court, who set out his views on the potential of the EEA for the UK after Brexit:

https://www.kcl.ac.uk/law/tli/about/Baudenbacher-Kings-College-13-10-16.pdf

Professor Yarrow was also the author of the original papers that explored the advantages of staying in the EEA after Brexit:

http://www.rpieurope.org/Publications/Essays_New_Series/Essays_NS_7.2_Brexit_and_the_single_market_revisited.pdf

http://www.rpieurope.org/Publications/Yarrow_Brexit_and_the_single_market.pdf

George Trefgarne, chief executive of Boscobel & Partners and member of the Advisory Council of Open Europe, has recently published Norway then Canada: A new strategy to avoid a Brexit smash:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Norway-then-Canada-strategy-Brexit-ebook/dp/B07GZ1BPGC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1535726079&sr=1-1&refinements=p_27%3AGeorge+Trefgarne

A number of MPs and commentators have written articles about the potential for a Brexit based on interim membership of the EEA:

James Cartlidge, MP for South Suffolk:

https://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2018/07/james-cartlidge-lets-board-the-eea-lifeboat-and-set-sail-towards-a-new-common-market.html

Rupert Darwall, fellow of the Centre for Policy Studies:

https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2018/07/how-brexiteers-can-still-save-brexit/

https://reaction.life/no-deal-option-called-eea/

Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/07/17/norway-option-thing-left-will-save-brexit-getting-means-mrs/

Tim Stanley, Daily Telegraph:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/07/24/time-fellow-brexiteers-took-second-look-norway-option/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

Paul Goodman, editor of Conservative Home:

https://www.conservativehome.com/thetorydiary/2018/07/the-conservative-brexit-choice-seek-to-park-the-uk-in-the-eea-under-a-new-tory-leader-or-press-on.html

Nick Boles, MP for Grantham and Stamford and chairman of the Norway Plus campaign, floated the idea of a transition out of the EU via the EEA in July 2017:

https://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2017/07/nick-boles-why-britain-should-transition-to-full-brexit-over-three-years.html