Gove denies secret talks on Norway-style solution to Brexit

PUBLISHED: 14:54 02 August 2018 | UPDATED: 14:56 02 August 2018

Environment secretary Michael Gove

$image.copyright

Michael Gove has been forced to deny reports he privately discussed a Norway-style solution to Brexit in the likely event that Theresa May's Chequers strategy fails.

The Financial Times reported the environment secretary and Brexiteer talked of "parking" the UK in the European Economic Area (EEA), like Norway, to avoid the chaos of a disorderly no-deal exit.

The idea reportedly came up at a dinner with moderate Conservative MPs and peers, but has been ruled out by Mrs May's red lines and would incense hardline Brexiteers, who could bring down the prime minister if she heads in that direction.

Asked if he had devised a plan to stay in the EEA at a private dinner with a number of Conservative MPs in June, he said: "I don't know what you're talking about."

Sources close to Mr Gove poured cold water on the reports, suggesting he was playing Devil's advocate from the EU's point of view and was "fully behind the Chequers plan" and "fully behind the prime minister taking that plan to the EU".

While admitting the environment secretary was at the dinner and spoke about the EEA option, they said the conversation was about what EU negotiators were likely to put forward and added the EEA would not work as a fallback because Norway has a customs border.

Mr Gove reportedly raised the possibility at a private dinner with about 20 Tory MPs and peers on June 25, as he ran through various options in the event of Mrs May being unable to agree a deal in Brussels before March next year.

The dinner was with the Green Chip dining group - a gathering of moderate Tories set up by Mr Gove and former minister Greg Barker to support David Cameron, the former prime minister.

Mr Gove is reported to be buttering up Remain-leaning MPs in a bid to present himself as a Brexiteer capable of uniting the Conservative Party, earning the nickname "St Michael of the EEA".

The FT reports he imitated Martin Selmayr, the influential German official who is the EU's top civil servant, in running through various scenarios for the autumn, including the EEA outcome.

"He was steering the conversation towards the EEA idea," said one MP who attended the dinner, according to the FT. "There's no doubt about that."

Should Mrs May secure a deal with Brussels but fail to get it through a heavily divided parliament, Remain MPs believe the EEA option could attract cross-party support.

Mrs May's team have pointed out that Mr Gove's private dinner took place before the Cabinet agreed the Chequers plan, which the prime minister believes will form the basis of a deal with Brussels in the autumn.

You've seen the news, now discover the story

The New European is committed to providing in-depth analysis of the Brexit process, its implications and progress as well as celebrating European life.

Try 13 weeks for £13

Support The New European's vital role as a voice for the 48%

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

  • Become a friend of The New European for a contribution of £48. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish)
  • Become a partner of The New European for a contribution of £240. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook
  • Become a patron of The New European for a contribution of £480. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook and an A3 print of The New European front cover of your choice, signed by Editor Matt Kelly

By proceeding, you agree to the New Europeans supporters club Terms & Conditions which can be found here.



Supporter Options

Mention Me in The New European



If Yes, Name to appear in The New European



Latest Articles

ANTI-BREXIT EVENTS

Grassroots anti-Brexit campaigners are increasing the pressure on politicians ahead of a series of important votes this year. Here is a list of the events organised across Britain in the coming weeks and months.

Trending

Newsletter Sign Up

The New European weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy