Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP. Senior figures in the party have privately made clear that they could live with a much softer Brexit as long as it fully protected the union between Britain and Northern Ireland
Oliver Wright, Policy Editor | Kieran Andrews, Scottish Political Editor
March 29 2019, 12:01am, The Times
Supporters of a soft Brexit are in talks with the Democratic Unionist Party and Scottish Nationalists about keeping Britain in the customs union and single market after the country leaves.
Before another round of voting on alternative Brexit proposals in the Commons on Monday, supporters of the so-called Common Market 2.0 proposal have been asked into meetings with both party leaderships.
Talks are also continuing with the Labour leadership, which encouraged its MPs to vote for the proposal on Wednesday night but stopped short of whipping for it. One source claimed that Labour MPs supporting a second referendum had put pressure on the leadership not to fully endorse the rival proposal to reduce its chances of gaining a majority.
The People’s Vote campaign and Common Market 2.0 supporters have been at loggerheads for months over which “soft” or no-Brexit option has the most chance of getting a majority.
Under Common Market 2.0, which was proposed by Nick Boles, the Tory MP, Britain would remain in a customs union with the European Union unless alternative arrangements could be found to protect frictionless trade at the Irish border. Britain would also remain in the single market with a similar relationship to the bloc as Norway has.
While the plan would result in minimum disruption to trade, Britain would not be able to negotiate its own trade deals. It would also have to allow free movement of people.
On Wednesday night the proposal was defeated in the Commons by a majority of 94. An amendment in favour of a second referendum was defeated by 27 votes. However, analysis of the results suggests that the scale of the defeats are misleading. On Common Market 2.0, the SNP’s 35 MPs abstained as did 60 Labour MPs. The DUP’s ten MPs also abstained.