SPARE a thought for MPs in the “meaningful vote” on December 11 which may turn out to be anything but. With the eyes of the world upon them, they face an impossible choice. May's broken-backed deal is utterly discredited, unworkable in practice and will make Britain poorer. The only positive thing about it is that it’s united Brexiteers and Remainers in their opposition to it.

But what are the alternatives? Labour doesn't have one. The only thing more ridiculous than Theresa May's deal is the idea that Jeremy Corbyn could negotiate a better one. Brussels won’t even talk about renegotiating it. That leaves No Deal, which is not something that a responsible legislature should even consider, let alone vote for. We can't have chaos at the ports, the army in the streets, food rotting in lorries and medicines going short. No Deal would damage Britain’s economic prospects for decades to come, as companies based here, like Nissan, flee to Europe to secure their supply chains.

So what about a Peoples' Vote? There is a strong case for a repeat referendum, and Labour politicians like John McDonnell are now talking seriously about holding one. If parliament can't agree, then the issue should be handed back to the people who got us into this mess in the first place: the voters of Britain. But what would they be asked? And would the result be any different from 2016? The opinion polls are not reassuring.

Most polls suggest that attitudes have not changed very much. The largest, by Survation for Channel 4, suggests Remain is now ahead by 53% to 47% which is not a comfortable margin. That was pretty much what the polls were saying on the eve of the 2016 referendum. Many voters would be outraged by a repeat referendum – at least in England – and anti-elite resentment could spread like wildfire. If the Peoples Vote result were to be the same as last time, nothing would have been resolved.

As for the referendum question: it seems difficult to avoid including No Deal as well as Remain and May's Deal. Labour is trying to move an amendment to the meaningful vote blocking No Deal on the grounds that it is beyond the pale. But the trouble is, there are a lot of voters who see No Deal as equivalent to defaulting to WTO trade terms. They may be wrong, but unfortunately in a democracy, people have the right to make the wrong decisions.

However, there is a fourth way: the Norway/EFTA route called the European Economic Area. The Brussels negotiator, Michel Barnier, has offered to delay Britain's exit under Article 50 by three months if parliament is willing to consider this alternative to May's deal, which has been on the table throughout. In many ways, as this column has argued, it is the obvious solution. By rejoining the European Free Trade Association, which Britain set up in 1960, the UK can move seamlessly into the European Economic Area with Norway.

Norway is out of the EU, and is not a member of the Common Fisheries Policy or the Common Agricultural Policy, but it remains in the European Single Market. This should be the Brexit sweet spot in parliament, since it is supported by the SNP, LibDems, most Labour and many Tory MPs. It's the only version that could win a Commons vote, but for one slight problem: the Labour leader.

Jeremy Corbyn has never endorsed the European Economic Area, presumably because it includes freedom of movement. Labour's election manifesto in 2017 promised to end free movement – even though the vast majority of Labour MPs see no problem with it. Both the young Corbynite activists in Momentum and the die-hard Blairite MPs in the PLP, like Stephen Kinnock, are united in supporting free movement.

It is time to address immigration head on. Theresa May has repeatedly said that her deal alone guarantees an end to free movement of EU citizens, who she said have been “jumping the queue”. A ridiculous and offensive remark for which she has apologised. But she's adamant that the key issue in Brexit is cutting immigration. This is a false prospectus.

According to the latest figures, net migration from the EU has fallen to 74,000. Meanwhile immigration from non-EU countries, mainly in Asia, has risen to 248,000, the highest in 14 years. If immigration is indeed a problem, leaving the EU is not the solution to it. The claim that by halting freedom of movement the Tories could cut immigration to the tens of thousands was and is false. Britain has had full control over non-EU immigration, and has increased it substantially since 2016. Theresa May's immigration claim is not only morally wrong, it's just wrong.

The voters of Britain appear to be wholly ignorant of this. The Tory government has cynically blamed the EU for immigration. Meanwhile, Labour has been reluctant to talk about non-EU immigration for fear of demonising racial minorities. Neither has told the truth about freedom of movement, which does not give every EU citizen a right to unlimited residence in the UK.

EU rules on free movement – as opposed to asylum – are actually quite strict. Under Directive 2004/38, EU migrants only have a right of residence in a member state for three months, after which they should have a job, or the prospect of one, or have means to support themselves. The Brexiteers confused matters deliberately in 2016 by suggesting, in the infamous “Breaking Point” poster, that Syrian and other refugees were somehow crowding into Britain because of the European Union's four freedoms.

Rightly or wrongly, many people in England are worried about mass immigration. Opinion surveys like the British Attitudes Survey confirm that immigration was, if not the top issue, then very high on the Brexit agenda. But all our political parties, for different reasons, chose to muddy the waters and allowed voters to believe that Brexit was the solution.

This generation of UK politicians will be held to account by history for this canard. The opposition parties, instead of trying to wrong-foot each other, should have united – as they have belatedly in the Scottish parliament – to challenge the immigration fallacy. The Westminster parties must come together now to challenge the bogus prospectus.

A parliamentary majority for a Norway option is within sight. MPs of all parties could give voters an assurance that the existing controls on EU immigration would be properly applied in future. This is the only credible alternative to Theresa May's bizarre and over-complicated backstop arrangement, which keeps the UK in the customs union and many EU rules by default. (And, since Northern Ireland remains border-free, still allows free movement into the UK).

Of course the EEA would not have the same benefits as remaining in the European Union. The UK would lose its representation on the Council of Ministers and its veto on EU laws. We'd be a rule taker. There are issues too over whether EEA membership should include the Customs Union. But the Norway option is the only one with a snowball's chance of getting a majority in parliament – and the country.

Right now, Britain is a nation adrift, at sea without a map and with a mutinous crew. Someone needs to take back control before we hit the rocks.