It looks like one of the alternative Brexit plans being voted on by UK lawmakers on Monday could have enough backing to carry a majority in Parliament – unlike Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan.
The plan, known as Common Market 2.0, is currently looking likely to receive the support of some in the opposition Labour party and the Scottish Nationalists.
Common Market 2.0 is a very soft Brexit, in which the UK formally leaves the EU but remains very closely aligned to it, through membership of the single market. The plan also calls for a customs arrangement between the UK and the EU that avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland.
The plan has advantages and disadvantages, depending on your perspective.
Under this plan, the UK would apply to join the European Free Trade Association, which would allow the UK to trade with the EU and other EFTA nations (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) on similar terms to now.
Via EFTA, the UK would also continue its membership of the European Economic Area, meaning it would retain access to the EU’s single market.
Under EFTA rules, the UK can still – in theory at least – strike its own trade deals while more or less maintaining trading ties with the EU. It will also result in minimal disruption to its world-class services industry.
The UK would also leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in all areas other than those which affect the EEA. Crucially for some Brexiteers, the UK could also leave the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy. (Despite making up less than 0.05% of the UK’s economy, the fishing industry has played a huge part in the Brexit debate.)
But as a member of the single market, the UK would have to abide by the four freedoms of movement: Goods, services, capital and people. That last one is a problem for Brexiteers, as it means the UK would not have full control over the number of people coming through its borders. That’s also a huge issue for many in the Labour ranks.
The UK would also have to continue making huge contributions to the EU, something that Brexiteers promised would end.
And the unique customs arrangement envisioned by Common Market 2.0 is unprecedented among EFTA membership and possibly contradictory to current EFTA rules.
There’s no guarantee that it could be achieved, meaning the Irish border question is not necessarily answered. While it looks a very clever plan, it runs into many of the same problems as every other plan.