Soft-Core Brexual Content – Indicative Votes Explained & What Is a “Norway-Style Deal?”

Indicative votes appear to be all but confirmed as the means to try and smash through the clogged U-bend of Parliament, the plunger of common sense that will finally dislodge through the claggy wad of Brexit.

The principle of these indicative votes is quite simple – different strategies will be put before MPs, who will then vote on which is their favourite. If a way forward that requires a long extension to Article 50 is found, then they will take it to the EU in the hope that they will grant us a further extension in which to enact this new strategy.

There will probably have to be a process of elimination, as an overall majority would not be reached in the first round, but slowly but surely a winning strategy might end up being formulated as the least popular strategies are removed.

While not confirmed, the options will most likely look like the following:

  • May’s Deal;
  • A deal with a customs union and/or freedom of movement, which Corbyn supports;
  • No-deal;
  • A General Election;
  • A Second Referendum;
  • Revoking Article 50 and outright cancelling Brexit;
  • “A Norway-type deal.”

Most of these are relatively self-explanatory in that they have been discussed at length before and are quite obvious in how they might affect the deadlock.

However, the final option is something of an enigma. What, on earth, is a “Norway-type deal,” “Norway+,” or “Customs Union 2.0?” Even more intriguing is that many pundits are currently saying that this is the one that MPs are most likely to vote for when the indicative votes are held this week.

This, then, this glorious, Scandinavian-monikered strategy might be our salvation, our final way through Brexit, our democratic phoenix, flying from the ashes to save British politics.

Shame it’s a load of absolute shit, though.

Why? What’s Wrong With It?

Because it absolutely fails to make anyone happy – even more so than Theresa May’s deal.

It is a “soft Brexit” – i.e. that we retain close relations with the EU by:

  1. Remaining in the customs union;
  2. Allowing freedom of movement;
  3. Giving the EU money towards the EU’s budget. 

Aside from the obvious issues with the third point, what’s wrong with the first two? We leave the EU, but we still have the benefits of membership, right?

Yes, but those two principles are exactly what the majority of people who voted to Leave gave as their main reasons for wanting to Leave in the first place.

  • Remaining in the customs union means being subject to EU tariffs and rules on trade, many of which are arguably detrimental for some UK industries like farming and fishing.
  • Retaining freedom of movement means allowing EU citizens to move to the UK with little difficulty, as they do now. Many Leave voters were swayed by the numbers of Eastern-European workers coming over to the UK and filling low-skill, low-paid jobs.

Additionally, not only are we stuck in these principles, we have elected to remove ourselves from the head-table: the EU can create whatever tariffs, laws and rules it wants and we will have to abide by them without having a say in them.

So we end up in limbo – we’re not out of the EU’s grasp, which Leavers want, but nor are we a part of its governance, which is what Remainers want.

Oh. This All Seems Pretty Stupid. Why On Earth Would MPs Vote For It?

Because actively voting against Brexit is political suicide for many of these MPs. Indeed, with some of the death threats that they receive every day, it could even be personally dangerous. Many MPs do not want to leave the EU but represent constituencies that do, so to openly vote against Brexit is a highly contentious decision for them.

As such, damage limitation might be the best way for them to get by – to demonstrate that they voted in favour of Brexit, but also ensuring that they protect their constituents from the detrimental effects of it.

However, it is probable that if this really does become the preferred choice when the indicative votes are held, the public would be made aware of how useless this choice would be:

  • The ERG and Brexiteers would be apoplectic about it and might even vote to revoke Article 50 – a soft Brexit is no Brexit at all to them, so cancelling this round and having another go in a few years might end up being their preferred strategy.
  • Remainers would cry blue murder about how pointless it is and how it pleases no-one and could gain some support in showing that Remain really is the best outcome given the choice.

There are rumours that whatever happens, there will be a final, confirmatory referendum on the preferred strategy vs. Remain. If it is a variation of Norway vs. Remain, there would probably only be one winner.

It won’t be Norway. 


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