There are viable alternatives if Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal deal is rejected by Parliament on Tuesday, one of her ministers has said.
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that ‘anything could happen’ if MPs vote the plan down as expected.
But she broke ranks with her Cabinet colleagues to insist that the UK could still pursue other options if that happened.
These include a ‘Norway plus’ deal or even a second Brexit referendum, something Mrs May has rejected on numerous occasions.
Rudd said she supported the Prime Minister’s plan as it was ‘the best option’ and admitted the aftermath would be ‘chaotic’ if it is thrown out by Parliament.
She said: “What we need is a compromise deal, that’s what the prime minister has proposed.
“People are saying why they are not going to vote for it. I’m pointing out if you don’t vote for it, these are the other things that could happen.”
Rudd said many people had a ‘perfect vision’ of what Brexit should look like, ‘and that perfect is not available.’
“I would urge my colleagues to think about why people voted to leave the European Union, what their interpretation is of that and what the alternatives are,” she added.
“If it doesn’t get through, anything could happen and none of them are as good as the current arrangement.”
Rudd had earlier indicated that Norway plus was her preferred alternative, but admitted that ‘nobody knows if it can be done.’
Under a Norway agreement, or a variation of it, the UK would remain in the single market and retain freedom of movement.
She said she hoped the government could ‘hold stable’ and regroup if they are defeated on Tuesday and said there was ‘no question’ of Mrs May stepping down.
“What would be a complete mistake would be to allow what is already an unstable period to descend into further instability with talk of a leadership change,” she said.
But former Tory leader Lord Howard told the same programme that Mrs May would have ‘difficult decisions’ to make about her future and that of the country if she lost.
- Norway is part of the single market as a member of the European Economic Area but it is not an EU member.
- It pays into the EU budget and follows the majority of the bloc’s rules, including the freedom of movement of goods, services, capital and people.
- It is not part of the EU customs union so a ‘Norway plus’ deal would have to be struck by the UK to avoid a hard border in Ireland, with some form of customs union.