Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, so goes the saying. However ex-Chancellors are also able to pour scorn when they think they have been wronged. George Osborne, now editor of the Evening Standard, who was famously sacked by Theresa May after she became leader of the Conservative Party, telling him she ‘did not want him to be part of the Cabinet’ told the BBC yesterday that May was ‘a dead woman walking’ after Thursday’s election result.
After the disastrous decision to call the snap election, Theresa May, as well as talking to the DUP to stay in power, reshuffled her cabinet to try to help maintain her grip on the leadership. Most ministers were re-appointed, however in a surprise move Michael Gove was brought back into the fold, less than a year after he was sacked as justice minister after his own bid to become party leader failed with accusations of political back stabbing and treachery … keep your friends close and enemies closer.
So, where does this leave the Brexit negotiations and May’s now infamous ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ idea? When even Nigel Farage, the former leader of UKIP, concedes that it might be time for a Brexit-lite or so-called Norway option you know there has been a shift in consensus. The Norway option would see the UK remain within the European Economic Area, like Norway, Switzerland and Iceland. This would allow continued full access to the single market, by re-joining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). This idea is not new, but was dropped from political thinking as EFTA members have to guarantee a degree of free movement of people. As Farage told the BBC ‘I think we are probably headed towards a Norway-type situation two-and-a-half years down the road’ adding ‘Norway is better than where we are now ... it’s certainly not where I want to finish up but I do think now there will be backsliding’.
The biggest upside to EFTA is that it is a relatively off the shelf option, invented as an alternative trade bloc for those countries that were unwilling to join the EEC at the time. It also exempts states from EU policy areas such as a common foreign and security policy, common agriculture and fisheries policies and the customs union. The idea looks even more appealing when you think of the timeline that the UK has to negotiate its way out of the EU, and the fact that the government is horribly short of multilateral negotiating experience. With a resurgent Labour also calling for a ‘jobs-first Brexit’ former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg seemed to have it right when he was quoted saying ‘The election has not usurped the EU referendum, but it has reshaped the kind of Brexit that is deliverable politically’.