A Norway-style of Brexit has been declared “dead” by a Labour MP following a gathering of the parliamentary party as Jeremy Corbyn claimed it was inappropriate for Britain.
It comes ahead of an anticipated showdown on the issue of the European Economic Area (EEA) within the party later this year when MPs will have the opportunity to vote on the option.
Last week, peers in the House of Lords, including 83 Labour rebels, voted in favour of the UK joining Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway as non-EU members of the EEA meaning the issue has now been passed to MPs for their verdict.
But emerging from the weekly gathering of Labour MPs in Westminster, John Mann, the MP for Bassetlaw, said: “EEA is dead after that.“
“Lots of Labour people were getting up saying no, we’re not backtracking on the referendum. That’s not happened before at the PLP,” he added.
“It was quite a significant moment in my view. In a sense that strengthens Jeremy Corbyn’s hand on his current position. But it kills dead all this stuff from the House of Lords that’s additional – it’s clearly not going to have Labour’s support.”
But his view was contradicted by another Labour backbencher who told reporters that Mr Corbyn had been asked to keep his options open on supporting the proposal when it returns to the Commons and had not ruled it out.
Asked whether EEA membership was “dead” after Brexit, a spokesman for the Labour leader referred to the party’s leadership decision to instruct peers to abstain on the amendment in Lords last week.
“You’ve seen what happened in relation to the EEA amendment in the Lords,” the spokesman added.
Pressed again on whether the option had been ruled out, he added: “Jeremy has made clear and Keir [Starmer] has made clear that the EEA packages that are currently in existence don’t meet the needs and the priorities that we have set out and that the Norway option is not appropriate and will not work for the kind of Brexit that we want to see.”
“In relation to any whipping arrangements – it will be decided at the time.”
The remarks at the weekly PLP meeting also came after Erna Solberg, the Norwegian prime minister, said her country was open to the UK remaining in the EEA after Brexit
“I think we will cope very well if the Brits come in,” Ms Solberg told the Financial Times.“It will give bargaining power on our side too. And it would ease Norway’s access to the UK.”
In an apparent reference to the UK’s unwillingness to maintain the freedom of movement required by the single market, Ms Solberg said there would be “costs and benefits” to British EEA membership.
“You have to accept a couple of things that were difficult in the discussion before Brexit,” she added.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies