Editor's Notes: Wherever Brexit takes us, let’s hope it’s not Norway

Christian May
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A Norway-style deal would sign the UK up to an inferior version of the EU (Source: Getty)

Theresa May remains in office, and all her difficulties remain with her.

By surviving Wednesday night’s vote, she has secured a grace period of 12 months during which time she cannot be challenged again.

However, Labour MPs are determined to call a parliamentary vote of no confidence in the government, which could destroy the Tory-DUP alliance once and for all – leaving the government with no majority.

Faced with this scenario, May’s withdrawal agreement looks to be on even weaker ground than it was at the start of the week.

This political purgatory is further complicated by the fact that no majority exists for any other form of Brexit. A second referendum is a possibility, but it would require the Prime Minister to make it her policy and at present, it absolutely is not.

This leaves either May’s deal, a no-deal Brexit or the increasingly popular Norway option: membership of the European Economic Area (EEA).

MPs cannot simply grab the wheel and steer the country to this destination. It would need to become government policy.

Remain-leaning Tories and plenty of Labour MPs present the Norway option as an acceptable compromise, taking us out of the EU’s political institutions while leaving us with a smooth trading relationship.

They used to call it “Norway For Now” – hinting that we could improve the terms later, but they’ve since dropped this pretence.

They claim it is a credible alternative to May’s deal or a no-deal Brexit. They are wrong. Joining the EEA would mean remaining in the single market and therefore accepting all of its rules without having a jot of influence over them.

The Bank of England’s position is that this would be intolerable for the City, as it would have no choice but to swallow future EU rules on financial transaction taxes, bonus caps and EU-wide regulation.

That’s to say nothing of the fact that the 2016 referendum question was about leaving the EU, not moving sideways into an inferior version of it.

Whatever Brexit’s final destination may be, it should be a long way from Norway.

Reputation matters

Despite 2018 bringing us the collapse of Carillion, Philip Green’s misconduct allegations and a host of execs on trial, the reputation of British business ends the year on a high.

The Institute for Business Ethics annual survey of the public shows 62 per cent consider UK firms to be behaving ethically – the highest rate since 2003 when it stood at 47 per cent.

Of all the age groups, millennials show the most positive change in opinion – with just 24 per cent of them concerned about corporate conduct.

En Marche! regresses

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Emmanuel Macron was once thought of as a centrist hero and the bulwark against populism, not least by Emmanuel Macron.

But after weeks of violent protest he’s caved in and coughed up £9bn of extra spending to ease the burden on citizens angered by the cost of living.

Macron’s grand reform agenda is essentially dead, and his expensive apology puts France at risk of breaking the EU’s budget rules. Protesters are emboldened and Macron’s future is uncertain.

No joke

David Banks, the former Mirror editor, was presenting an award at a media bash earlier this week when he quipped that “getting an overweight, one-eyed former editor with knackered knees and a walking stick” would demonstrate the event organiser’s commitment to diversity.

Off stage, he was challenged by a young journalist who told him in no uncertain terms that diversity was nothing to joke about.

“You should be more careful,” she told him.

By coincidence, just as Banks was writing up this encounter for the Press Gazette, comedian Ricky Gervais was asking on Twitter if there are any subjects that should never be joked about.

As if to answer this question, students at a London university sent a “behavioural agreement form” to comedian Konstantin Kisin, who had been booked to perform at a charity gig.

The draft contract demanded he make no jokes about sex, gender, age, class, religion... and it went on. Kisin, to his immense credit, pulled out – citing the students’ absurd attack on free speech.

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