Frank Field suggests Norway-style Brexit transition deal
Brexit Frank Field suggests Norway-style Brexit transition deal
Eurosceptic, who quit the Labour whip, said he could not countenance a no-deal outcome
Labour MPs could coalesce around a Norway-style transition deal post-Brexit to give time for a more wide-ranging free trade agreement to be struck, suggests Frank Field, the veteran Brexiteer
Field, who quit the Labour whip earlier this year, is a long-t ime Eurosceptic. But in an article for the Guardian he said that he had been convinced of the merits of the UK joining the European Economic Area, the European Free Trade Association (Efta) court and negotiating a customs union, because of the difficulties of the parliamentary arithmetic.
He said he could not countenance the prospect of a âno dealâ Brexit, with its threat to jobs and livelihoods.
The idea was first suggested by Nick Boles, the Tory MP and former minister who is a close ally of Michael Gove, the environment secretary. It was backed by William Hague, the former foreign secretary, and Nicky Morgan, the former education secretary.
Critics say it would not solve the impasse in the negotiations because the EU would be likely to still require a backstop in the withdrawal agreement to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland.
The Guardian understands that some Labour MPs in leave constituencies have been convinced the plan may be viable. One option under consideration is a backbench business debate on the idea, which would test the numbers who would be prepared to vote for such an option and if it could command a majority.We urgently need an insurance plan for no-deal Brexit â" hereâs my idea | Frank Field Read more
âAs long as it is leaving the EU, gives a clear path to a deal which keeps our economy running and ends free movement, without the catastrophe of no deal, that is something that is appealing,â said one Midlands Labour MP.
Field, one of two Labour MPs along with Kate Hoey who has consistently voted against the party whip on Brexit legislation, said he was concerned that nothing on offer could command consensus and he was keen to avoid a no-deal Brexit.
He said the UK would be on track for no deal if they had no fallback option after rejecting Theresa Mayâs proposal and that MPs should begin laying the groundwork for an EEA-style arrangement as âan insurance policyâ.
âIt should have, as its longer term aim, the agreement of a free trade deal with the EU that delivers prosperity and sets us free to make our own laws, implement a balanced immigration policy, and reach our own trade deals around the world.â
Field said he preferred a Canada-style free-trade agreement as an end goal, but said time had been wasted in the past few years of negotiations and he could not be sure it would pass the Commons at this stage.
âIt will be almost impossible to negotiate this outcome within the time we have left before our departure,â he said, citing the EUâs offer of a free trade dea l but with the caveat that a backstop to keep Northern Ireland in a different customs arrangement to prevent border checks with the Republic. âThis is unacceptable and simply will not fly,â he said.The Guardian view on Frank Field: a voice worth hearing | Editorial Read more
âI am convinced, in time, that solutions can be found and a Canada-style deal can be made to work,â he said. âBut here lies the rub. We havenât got time. We are fast running out of it. âCanada nowâ just does not work.â
Labourâs frontbench is uncomfortable with the workability of the model and the end goal of a Canada-style deal.
A party source called it âa long and complicated route towards a hard Brexitâ and said Labour had very real concerns about the Canada model, which could re-open the risk of a hard border in Northern Ireland and could lead to a slashing of regulations.
The source said that they believed there were significant complexities involved, including requiring a separate negotiation with the EU and the individual Efta countries, a rewriting of the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement so it could include a customs union and an agreement on fisheries and agriculture.
âThat would be a mammoth task to complete in two years, let alone one to start with 22 weeks to go until Brexit day,â the source said. âAnd there is no indication that Efta countries would accept a rewriting of their agreement along those lines.â
Labour also believes such an insurance option would not be enough to satisfy the EUâs insistence for a backstop in the withdrawal agreement to guard against a hard border in Northern Ireland. âWhether you went for this plan or not, that is the main sticking point in the negotiations at the moment,â the source said.
Field said he was engaged in close conversations with former Labour colleagues and hoped to persuade âas broad a range of opinions as possibleâ.Labour too divided to back Norway-style Brexit deal â" Starmer Read more
He said he knew some pro-remain Labour colleagues would hope to keep the UK permanently in a Norway-style deal. However he said, others in his former party would need the reassurance that a Canada-style deal would be pursued because of the strong Leave vote in their constituencies.
Boles is understood to have had conversations with Steve Baker, the former Brexit minister who is a leading member of the European Research Group of Eurosceptic Tories, the group most likely to oppose Mayâs deal. Sources said it was unlikely the group would back the plan.Topics
- Frank Field
- Article 50
- European Union
- Foreign policy
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