This morning on Radio 4 Today programme, John Humphrys interviewed Oliver Letwin and the whole thing seemed to be full of problems. The first and most obvious matter was that Oliver claimed he would support Theresa May’s proposal for our departure from the EU next Tuesday which is perhaps surprising given that he was her predecessors head of the Brexit unit. However this was a clear statement and it took several attempts to persuade Oliver to explain what ‘what would happen if Theresa’s proposal is rejected’. Oliver then burst into describing an alternative proposal (Norway+) which he articulated as something he was very excited about which would achieve good outcomes in his view and he even knew that many MPs and the EU would support it. At no stage did he then raise disappointments for what would be lost that Theresa was currently proposing. Surely at this point John should have asked Letwin if he feels so positive about Norway+ why is he bothering to support Theresa Mays proposal? After all if Theresa is successful next Tuesday the options of Norway+ will be lost. However that was buried by some odd questions about the lack of certainty of a Norway model which seemed to get John tied up when that is a minor matter. In addition how would Theresa be able to remain given how many times she promised us to leave the customs union and how many times the Tories denigrated labour over their call for us to remain in the customs union.
However the much bigger matter is given the very few differences between being a member of the EU and being a member of the EFTA along with the Customs Union such as maintaining the free movement of people, why does the idea that this will meet the demands of the many who voted to Leave make sense? Few people on a day to day basis would ever know the difference between our membership of Norway+ and our membership of the EU. We might no longer be sharing sovereignty with the EU in a strict sense, but they would continue to make rules which our shared membership of EFTA would need to accept and in the case of a few rules our membership of the Customs Union would oblige us to accept. However instead of having any of the benefits of being able to influence and even set laws and on rare occasions block laws, we would simply watch the game from the side of the pitch. We would be subject to the EU Parliaments decisions without having 73 MEPs in the 751 size Parliament. We would be subject to decisions taken by European Council but our Prime Ministers would no longer be a member and we would be impacted by the Commission but we would not be allowed to appoint a Commissioner. In effect we would go from sharing sovereignty which is something I am happy with, to being directed by 27 nations which is the lies that the Vote Leave campaign implied already happened. Although Norway+ is clearly much better than a hard Brexit, it is a long way short of remaining and a long way short of leaving, whatever Oliver Letwin claimed. It is time for someone to challenge these ideas before Tuesday!