Labour and SNP give boost to Norway-plus Brexit plan

Supporters of a "Norway-plus" plan for close UK engagement with the EU after Brexit have gained a big boost, as both Labour and the Scottish National Party announced their MPs will back it.

The scheme – known as Common Market 2.0 – is one of nine alternative plans tabled for a series of indicative votes on Monday designed to establish what kind of Brexit has a chance of winning a majority among MPs.

Conservative MPs have been given a free vote, but Cabinet ministers will be told to abstain.

The Norway-plus proposal, tabled by Conservative Nick Boles, was defeated by 94 in the first round of indicative votes last week, when Labour MPs were "encouraged" to support it but the SNP abstained.

It proposes UK membership of the European Free Trade Association and European Economic Area, allowing continued participation in the single market and a "comprehensive customs arrangement" with the EU after Brexit.

If all 35 SNP MPs fall in behind the plan on Monday evening, it could win a majority unless 7-8 or more Labour MPs rebel against their party's whip.

Meanwhile, it was confirmed that senior ministers will meet in Cabinet for five hours on Tuesday – the first three hours in a "political" session in the absence of civil servants – to discuss the way ahead, amid speculation about a possible general election or change of Tory leader.

Labour MPs will be told to support the party's own alternative Brexit plan, which was tabled as an addition to the order paper on Monday morning, as well as the Common Market 2.0 scheme, Tory grandee Kenneth Clarke's plan for a customs union and two motions demanding a second referendum.

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SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said his party would back the Boles motion, despite preferring the UK to remain in the EU.

"The key thing for us is that we stay in the European Union," Mr Blackford told the BBC. "We want to revoke Article 50. We want to put it back to the people in a people's vote.

"But we will be prepared to compromise on the basis of protecting jobs, staying in the Single Market and Customs Union, so we will vote for the Boles amendment."

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