Ben Lowry: It seems the UK is heading for the Norwegian model in relation to Europe

editorial image

Given the chaos of the last week, in both Labour and the Tories, it would be rash to make predictions about what will now happen with Brexit.

But something akin to the Norwegian model seems to be an increasingly probable outcome – particularly if the Eurosceptic but non-Brexiteer Mrs May is at the helm of the country in a few months’ time.

Michael Gove thinks that this is not acceptable because we have to quit the single market and accompanying requirements such as free movement of people. But while he is of course right that immigration was one of the main motivating concerns for many Leave voters, the simple fact is that the only options on the ballot paper were Remain and Leave and we can only speculate on exactly what people wanted thereafter in the event of Brexit.

The European Economic Area (EEA) of course means we lose our MEPs, commissioners, say and influence in the EU, and it means that we make barely any of the financial savings of not paying into the EU. But it is not so far from the highly detached position within the EU that some advocates of ‘renegotiation’ were expecting David Cameron to achieve in his talks with Brussels – almost unachievable within the EU.

As someone who backed Remain, I do think that both Brexit, at one extreme, and Eurofederalism, at the other, were more coherent than such a have-your-cake-and-eat-it approach within the EU. This result does bring closer a scenario that I have long pondered: a smaller, more tightly bonded EU which is synonymous with the eurozone, and a larger EEA or its equivalent.

The Norwegian model is also the outcome that is least likely to blow apart the UK, which was one of my principal objections to Leave. We will have to wait and see how much damage has already been done to the Union.

I was struck by the number of people from a Protestant background who were immediately seeking an Irish passport after the result. This is probably a small percentage of the population, but such people would be critical in any border poll.

A major plus with the Norwegian model is that we will be able to explore trade arrangements outside the EU in a way we would not be able to do if we were still a member.

I still think though that if we were going to go down the EEA route we might as well have stayed in the EU.

This will clearly be the case if the UK splits apart.

Ben Lowry: The rest of the West is going for protest votes, but not NI where too much is at stake

Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

Ben Lowry at the Ulster Memorial Tower centenary commemorations

Ben Lowry: Despite what supporters of Brexit say, it might just blow the UK apart