Tension has been ramping up for months ahead of the original March 29th Brexit date, and now there remains a lingering and distinctly uncomfortable pressure in the wake of a confirmed delay to Brexit.
The shifting rhetoric on all sides – whether Labour, Conservative, pro-Remain or pro-Leave – seems to shy away from this uncertainty: to borrow from a sportswear giant, the resounding rhetoric is to just do it.
Whilst political uncertainty feels unhealthy, none of these options are necessarily a healthy idea -hence why Theresa May is avoiding them. There are, however, a few politicians who are choosing to discuss a different approach.
What is ‘Common Market 2.0’?
Some Conservative former ministers have met with Labour MPs, including party leader Jeremy Corbyn, to discuss a new plan for leaving the EU. A Labour spokesperson said the meeting was to “discuss how to achieve a deal that would be good for jobs and could bring leave and remain voters together”.
The cross-party meeting was around a new proposed model for the UK–EU relationship. It’s similar to the connection currently held between Norway and the European Economic Area (EEA), so you may have heard of it described as ‘Norway-style’ or ‘Norway Plus’.
Norway isn’t a member of the European Union, but it is included in the EEA, meaning it benefits from being part of the European Single Market, amongst other things.
The term ‘Common Market 2.0’ refers to the Common Market which we currently trade under (also known as the European Single Market). The aim is to try and find common ground between the different political parties and reach a compromise which suits a majority.
To be clear, ‘Common Market 2.0’ isn’t a complete plan, but more a slogan for describing the proposed relationship between the UK and EU.
What is the European Economic Area (EEA)?
The EEA is an international agreement which allows for the extension of the EU’s single market trading law to non-EU member states. Currently, countries who are part of the European Union – including Great Britain – along with the non-EU members Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, operate under Europe’s Single Market.
The European Single Market sees us benefit from the free movement of goods, services and capital, as well as free labour movement in any of the membership countries: so, no extra customs regulations.
In Britain, we are already part of the EEA, but future inclusion is uncertain at this time.
How would Common Market 2.0 work?
We would still need to contribute to the EU Budget and follow EU regulations without being official members of those bodies who run them. This is something which many Leavers may oppose.
It also doesn’t include a permanent customs union, which is something that Labour’s own Brexit plans had outlined, although it’s arguably a pretty close alternative. It would resolve the need for a hard border with Ireland, for example, which is one of the current sticking points in Brexit plans.
We couldn’t have the same relationship with the EU as the one Norway benefits from for a number of reasons: we’re a much larger economy, for one, and there is the issue of the Irish border which complicates things. The EU will be keen to protect itself from the potential of Britain dropping out or trying to renegotiate its terms at a later date. We also wouldn’t have any MEPs (Members of the European Parliament), which means we wouldn’t have an official say in future decision-making, despite having to operate under EU rules.
For Leavers, Common Market 2.0 might not be a step far enough away from the EU to keep them satisfied. Despite Labour’s suggested backing of the plan, it’s unclear at this point whether these talks – and a resulting official tabling of the idea – are serious, or whether it’s another point which will quickly be quashed in the conversation.