Frank Field suggests Norway-style Brexit transition deal

By On October 26, 2018

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

Frank Field says Labour could coalesce around a Norway-style Brexit transition deal.
Frank Field says Labour could coalesce around a Norway-style Brexit transition deal. Photograph: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

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 “no deal” Brexit, with its threat to jobs and livelihoods.

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Why extend the Brexit transition period?

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The mooted extension to the transition period is a new idea being put forward by the EU to help Theresa May square the circle created by the written agreement last December and the draft withdrawal agreement in March.

That committed the UK and the EU to ensuring there was no divergence between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

But it also, after an intervention by the Democratic Unionist party, committed the UK (not th e EU) not to have any trading differences between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

The problem is that these are two irreconcilable agreements. They also impinge on the legally binding Good Friday agreement, which brought peace to Northern Ireland and in some senses pooled sovereignty of Northern Ireland giving people a birthright to be Irish or British or both.

If the UK leaves the EU along with the customs union and the single market then the border in Ireland becomes the only land border between the UK and the EU forcing customs, tax and regulatory controls.

The backstop is one of three options agreed by the EU and the UK in December and would only come into play if option A (overall agreement) or option B (a tailor-made solution) cannot be agreed by the end of transition. The Irish have likened it to an insurance policy.

The new EU idea is to extend the transition period to allow time to get to option A or B.

But an exten sion is problematic for Brexiters and leave voters, who want the UK to get out of the EU as soon as possible.

The Irish and the EU will also still need the backstop in the withdrawal agreement, which must be signed before the business of the trade deal can get under way. Otherwise it is a no-deal Brexit.

Extending the transition into 2021 would mean another year of paying into the EU budget. Britain would have to negotiate this but it has been estimated at anywhere between £10bn and £17bn.

Staying in the EU for another year would also mean continued freedom of movement and being under the European court of justice, which Brexiters would oppose.

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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€" here’s my idea | Frank Field Read more

“As 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,” 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 May’s proposal and that MPs should begin laying the groundwork for an EEA-style arrangement as “an insurance policy”.

“It 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.”

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.

“It will be almost impossible to negotiate this outcome within the time we have left before our departure,” he said, citing the EU’s 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. “This is unacceptable and simply will not fly,” he said.

The Guardian view on Frank Field: a voice worth hearing | Editorial Read more

“I am convinced, in time, that solutions can be found and a Canada-style deal can be made to work,” he said. “But here lies the rub. We haven’t got time. We are fast running out of it. ‘Canada now’ just does not work.”

Labour’s frontbench is uncomfortable with the workability of the model and the end goal of a Canada-style deal.

A party source called it “a long and complicated route towards a hard Brexit” 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.

Conservative MP Nick Boles first suggested the idea. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Conservative MP Nick Boles first suggested the idea. Photograph: Focus Images Ltd/Rex/Shutterstock

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.

“That would be a mammoth task to complete in two years, let alone one to start with 22 weeks to go until Brexit day,” the source said. “And there is no indication that Efta countries would accept a rewriting of their agreement along those lines.”

Labour also believes such an insurance option would not be enough to satisfy the EU’s insistence for a backstop in the withdrawal agreement to guard against a hard border in Northern Ireland. “Whether you went for this plan or not, that is the main sticking point in the negotiations at the moment,” the source said.

Field said he was engaged in close conversations with former Labour colleagues and hoped to persuade “as broad a range of opinions as possible”.

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 May’s deal. Sources said it was unlikely the group would back the plan.

Topics
  • Brexit
  • Frank Field
  • Article 50
  • European Union
  • Europe
  • Foreign policy
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Source: Google News Norway | Netizen 24 Norway

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