UK needs 'Norway model' to stay safe in Trumpish world after Brexit, says ex-South Shields MP David Miliband

Former foreign secretary David Miliband, who has said that Jeremy Corbyn should back the idea of a "Norway model" for Britain after it leaves the European Union. Picture by Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Former foreign secretary David Miliband, who has said that Jeremy Corbyn should back the idea of a "Norway model" for Britain after it leaves the European Union. Picture by Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Jeremy Corbyn should back the idea of a "Norway model" for Britain after it leaves the European Union, former South Shields MP David Miliband has said.

The former foreign secretary said the Labour leader should allow his MPs to vote for a European Economic Area (EEA) deal, saying it was a "safe harbour" in a world that has markedly changed since the 2016 referendum.

He spoke at the Hay Festival on Saturday, the day after a further group of Labour backbenchers rebelled against the leadership to demand a second referendum on the Brexit deal.

Mr Miliband, who also served as non-executive vice-chairman of Sunderland AFC, told BBC Radio 4's Today that the EEA would allow concerns over immigration to be addressed because it allowed the "emergency brake" on migrants to be used.

He said: "We are 708 days from the referendum and Britain still does not have a negotiating position on the most basic elements of our relationship with Europe after Brexit.

"I would say the Labour Party had a position on the customs union but not on the single market. I think it would be very wise to say that the EEA is a safe harbour.

"The offer that was made at the time of Brexit is not on the table, the global situation has been transformed much for the worse, not least by the actions of President (Donald) Trump.

"I believe it's absolutely essential that we face reality head-on. That reality is that people should be able to have a final say on whether or not to go ahead with the form of Brexit that is negotiated by the Government."

Mr Corbyn's team have previously said that the EEA idea has "clear problems" in relation to any new trade deal.

Last month his spokesman said: "The EEA packages that are currently in existence do not meet the needs and the priorities that we have set out and the Norway option is not appropriate and will not work for the kind of Brexit we want to see."

Mr Miliband, the brother of former party leader Ed Miliband, stood down as an MP in 2013 but has made several high-profile recent interventions on Brexit.

On Friday, 16 Labour MPs in London joined forces with Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable and two of his MPs to warn of the dangers that the capital faces when the UK leaves the European Union.

The signatories of the letter to the Independent, which urged a deal that keeps Britain in the customs union and single market, included six former shadow ministers, several of whom were in place until last year.

It came the day after 10 Welsh Labour MPs called for a second referendum, including Anna McMorrin and Tonia Antoniazzi, who are parliamentary private secretaries to shadow cabinet members.

Other Labour backbenchers who have called for a second referendum on the Brexit deal include MPs in the North East.

Mr Corbyn has repeatedly said Labour does not support a second national poll and fired Owen Smith as shadow Northern Ireland secretary for proposing one.