The work and pensions secretary admitted “anything could happen” if Mrs May’s deal does not survive Tuesday’s Commons vote, including a rerun of the 2016 vote or an eleventh-hour Norway-style arrangement with the EU. Her remarks are in stark contrast to the official line from Downing Street which has insisted there is no plan B for Brexit and the Prime Minister’s deal is the only option on the table. Ms Rudd, a close ally of Mrs May, told BBC radio: “If Theresa May’s plan doesn’t get through anything could happen: people’s vote, Norway plus, any of these options could come forward.”
The Government is widely expected to suffer a crushing defeat over its Brexit plan next week after more than 100 Tory MPs publicly stated they would vote against the deal unless changes are made.
And Amber Rudd’s comments come as a growing number of MPs are said to be warming to the idea of a ‘Norway-plus’ arrangement as a way to break the Parliamentary deadlock.
The work and pensions secretary said Mrs May’s plan is still the best option for exiting the EU.
But in a separate interview with The Times, Ms Rudd said her preferred alternative is a Norway-style model, adding it “seems plausible not just in terms of the country but in terms of where the MPs are”.
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Norway is not a member of the EU but it does enjoy access to the bloc’s single market through its membership of the European Free Trade Association (Efta) and European Economic Area (EEA).
The ‘plus’ element of a Norway-plus deal would involve a customs union with the EU, which would provide a solution to the Irish border issue.
But Brexiteers pushing for a clean break with Brussels have already rejected such deal as “Brexit in name only” because it would still require Britain to comply with EU rules.
The customs union membership would also hamper the UK’s ability to strike free trade deals around the world.
And the EEA membership aspect would also mean accepting continued freedom of movement from EU member states.
Provisions exist for a so-called ‘emergency brake’ clause which members can trigger to limit the number of European migrants allowed to enter.
The rules are used by Belgium, which is far stricter in its interpretation of EU law, to force European citizens to leave after three months if they are not working or studying.
But a recent study by Migration Watch warned only a “very small” number of people in the UK would be subject to these “expulsion orders”.
The research also found a ‘temporary’ brake on freedom of movement imposed in Liechtenstein – which has been in place since 1998 – would never be allowed in a country the size of Britain.