Brexit plan B? MP suggests copying Norway

Brexit
Most Britons don't want Brexit anymore, polls show. Photo credit: Getty

A close ally of British Prime Minister Theresa May has become the first cabinet minister to float a possible Plan B if parliament rejects Ms May's plan to leave the European Union.

While agreeing that Ms May's deal provides the best option for exiting the EU, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd says a Norway-style relationship with the bloc might also offer a way out of the current deadlock.

"If it doesn't get through anything could happen: people's vote, Norway-plus, any of these options could come forward," Ms Rudd told BBC radio on Saturday.

Ms Rudd told The Times newspaper in an interview her own preferred option, if Ms May's deal failed, was the "Norway-plus" model, adding it "seems plausible not just in terms of the country but in terms of where the MPs are".

Norway is not an EU member but is in the bloc's single market, which allows for free movement of goods, capital, services and people.

'Norway-plus' envisages Britain also staying in the EU's customs union, which Norway is not in.

With her own future in the balance, Ms May insists her deal - laboriously negotiated with the EU over many months - is the only one on the table. She says the alternatives are a painful "no-deal" exit from the EU or possibly no Brexit at all.

However members of parliament, including from May's own Conservative Party, look set to reject the deal in a vote on Tuesday.

The Times also reported on Saturday that plans were being made across party lines to vote against Ms May's leadership if she loses Tuesday's vote. The Daily Telegraph quoted a senior Conservative MP as saying she might be forced to resign.

Ms Rudd said she believed Ms May should stay on as Prime Minister even if parliament rejects her Brexit deal.

"There is no question of her going," Ms Rudd told the BBC.

But The Times said the main opposition Labour Party was seeking an alliance with rebel Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party, the small Northern Irish party which props up the minority government, to call a vote of no-confidence in Ms May's premiership.

That vote would not be binding but would place enormous pressure on Ms May to resign, it added.

If the Brexit deal is rejected, ministers have 21 days to state how they intend to proceed.

The government has previously said that if the agreement is rejected, Britain will leave the EU without a deal.

Reuters