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The UK's Labor Party announced about an hour ago that it would get behind the Common Market 2.0 / Norway Plus option that should (will?) get voted on later this evening as part of the Commons' indicative votes on Brexit. This opens the door for the Commons to agree on something, in contrast with last Wednesday. Two questions:

  1. What does Common Market 2.0 / Norway Plus mean in concrete and practical terms?

  2. Is it a proposal that the EU said it could get behind? If not, is it something the EU has already rejected in principle (e.g. refusal to allow the UK to participate in defining the EU's trade policy without being a member)?

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According to a document published by the Common Market 2.0 group:

As members of Common Market 2.0, the UK would still have to accept the free movement of workers from other European countries, but we would have new powers to impose unilateral restrictions on European migration in exceptional circumstances if our government deems it necessary.

[...]

In Common Market 2.0, most EU rules would not apply to us at all as we would be outside the common agriculture, fisheries, justice, home affairs, foreign and defence policies.

[...]

Although we would still need to make a financial contribution for access to the Common Market 2.0, the annual amount would equate to not much more than half the amount we currently pay.

Finally, as members of both the Single Market and a new comprehensive customs arrangement that initially will involve applying the existing common external tariff, there would be no reason for the Irish backstop ever to be activated.

Regarding EU support, the groups also states:

The EU has consistently made clear that a Norway-style relationship, combined with a comprehensive customs arrangement that delivers frictionless trade and no hard border in Ireland, is one of three options for the UK-EU future relationship that they would support.

The evidence they provide for this consists of a couple of quotes from EU Chief negotiator, Michel Barnier.

From May 2018:

The only frictionless model for the future with the UK would be Norway plus, Norway being part of the Single Market plus a customs union.

And from January 2019:

If the United Kingdom chooses to change its red lines, and to be more ambitious and go beyond a simple free trade deal in our future relationship, then the EU would be ready to immediately support this evolution and respond favourably.

For further analysis on these points see relevant articles from the BBC and The Conversation.

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    As I recollect, the EU has consistently rejected comprehensive customers arrangement options (which were suggested again and again in the run up to May's deal), and held that the Customs Union as the only sane option. The only signal they gave to the contrary was when May came to Brussels after her first deal got reject, and even then the support was so mild and vague that it was clear they were only paying it lip service to help May pass her deal the second time. I might be remembering wrong though. Any odds you can locate a few choice quotes that suggest otherwise? – Denis de Bernardy Apr 1 at 15:23
  • @DenisdeBernardy: I've added the Barnier quotes they have on pp. 5-6 in their document. – Brian Z Apr 1 at 16:47
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    So my point exactly. Per the Barnier quote, the EU is not at all entertaining the idea of "a comprehensive customs arrangement that delivers frictionless trade and no hard border in Ireland" (which is what May tried to sell to the EU again and again until Nov 2018 without any success because the EU thinks it's not workable), but rather is open for the UK to be in a Customs Union. – Denis de Bernardy Apr 1 at 17:13
  • FYI I answered this very similar question. Rather than post it here also and accept it, I'd like to suggest that you amend yours based on any additional information you think should be in the answer based on it the above comment, so I can accept your answer. – Denis de Bernardy Apr 1 at 17:25
  • @DenisdeBernardy Not sure I follow, but feel free to edit my answer. – Brian Z Apr 1 at 17:35
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Quoting a Guardian quick guide from today's recap on what the Commons are going to vote on:

What is the common market 2.0/Norway-plus Brexit option?

This soft Brexit compromise has been championed as a plan B for leaving the European Union.

It is based on Norway’s relationship with the EU, which is outside the bloc and the customs union but inside the single market. Under the plan the UK would have to join Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland in the European Free Trade Association (Efta), which would then allow it to participate in the European Economic Area (EEA).

The ‘plus’ in this option refers to a temporary customs union with the EU, which would need to be negotiated to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. This arrangement would remain in place until the EU and UK agreed a specific trade deal.

The option has the advantage of being as close to the EU as possible without full membership, and it would do away with the need for the problematic backstop for Northern Ireland. Like Norway, the UK would be outside the common fisheries and agriculture policies, and would not be subject to the European court of justice.

But it crosses a key red line for Brexiters by continuing freedom of movement, one of the preconditions of single market membership. It would also limit the UK's ability to negotiate its own trade deals while a new customs arrangement is under discussion. And it would require continued financial contributions to the EU without an influence inside the bloc, as the UK would no longer have MEPs or a seat on the European Council. It also isn't entirely clear that the UK would be welcomed into Efta.

The Commons 2.0 white paper, which Brian Z raised in his answer, further asserts:

In Common Market 2.0, most EU rules would not apply to us at all as we would be outside the common agriculture, fisheries, justice, home affairs, foreign and defence policies. [...]

Finally, as members of both the Single Market and a new comprehensive customs arrangement that initially will involve applying the existing common external tariff, there would be no reason for the Irish backstop ever to be activated.

However, the white paper doesn't make clear what the customs arrangement would look like. And it's somewhat counterfactual because the UK would remain in the single market, thereby subjecting itself to EU rules and the ECJ (and the EU insisted on a number of common fisheries policies as part of the Withdrawal Agreement insofar as I can recollect).

In the same answer he also quotes Barnier, who was clear in the run up to May's deal in 2018, when the EU consistently rejected technological solutions, that the EU would only entertain a full Customs Union as a frictionless border option:

The only frictionless model for the future with the UK would be Norway plus, Norway being part of the Single Market plus a customs union.

So in other words, it's a proposal the EU might get behind, but only if the UK is basically an EU member without having any say on what the EU is up to. It only delivers Brexit in name.

  • Well, were those "technological solutions" at any time more than hand-waving and wishful thinking? – Deduplicator Apr 1 at 22:05

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