Thursday

19th Sep 2019

Norway-EU relations highlight UK's Brexit dilemma

  • The Norway model "is still a decision-making in Brussels, that you would have to accept," prime minister Erna Solberg said in Brussels. (Photo: Johannes Jansson/norden.org)

When Norway's conservative prime minister, Erna Solberg, meets her UK counterpart, Theresa May in London on Wednesday (6 June), they may find that they have a lot in common.

They are both conservative female leaders of countries that seek close relations to the EU without being members.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

UK is Norway's biggest trading partner because of gas exports and both countries are Nato members with close relations to the United States.

The most pressing question for May these day is how to keep the relations to the EU going, when not being a member of the club anymore.

Perhaps Erna Solberg holds the answer?

Norway seems to have found a middle way to being a good EU neighbour and trading partner with its membership of the European Economic Area (EEA).

The deal gives Norway access to the EU's internal market, in return for implementing all related EU rules, but without having a say about these. This is often referred to as the "Norway model". Could Britain accept the same terms?

Norway was never a member of the EU, after its people twice rejected EU membership in referendums.

The question of keeping sovereignty or melting into a united Europe has marred both countries, split families and divided Norway as well as the UK between urban EU-positive majorities and more rural EU-critical regions.

If you asked the UK's opposition leader, Jeremy Corbin, the Norwegian model is not an option, however.

On Tuesday he told an audience of trade union leaders that Britain could get better trading arrangements with the EU than Norway.

His Labour party tabled amendments to the Government's Brexit legislation also on Tuesday calling on ministers to negotiate "a new single market deal that would protect jobs and the economy".

"Labour will only accept a Brexit deal that delivers the benefits of the Single Market and protects jobs and living standards," it said.

"Existing single market agreements that the EU has negotiated with third countries, including Norway, are bespoke deals negotiated with the EU to serve the best interests of those countries. We need to learn from them and negotiate our own more ambitious agreement, which serves our economic interests and which prevents a hard border in Northern Ireland," it also said.

The Labour party seeks full access to the EU's single market, common minimum standards, rights and protections, shared UK-EU institutions and regulations and refuses new impediments to trade.

Meanwhile, the Norwegian prime minister, Solberg, is not recommending the EEA as a model for Britain with much enthusiasm.

Her conservative party advocates full membership of the EU, but also respects the country's referendum results.

"The EU decides directives in the internal market, we adapt to them. We work before they are decided, to try to influence how they are made and to take into account our differences. But it's still a decision-making in Brussels that you would have to accept," she said at a press conference in Brussels on Tuesday.

A decision on using the Norway model for Brexit will come to a vote in the UK parliament next week (12 June), when British MPs will vote on an amendment to the government's flagship EU (Withdrawal) Bill that recommends Britain to stay in the European Economic Area after Brexit.

Feature

At Northern Irish border, Brexit risks hard-won peace

In Protestant and Catholic communities where the 1998 Good Friday agreement put an end to armed conflict, the possibility of a hard border on the island of Ireland brings back fearful memories. A new border could unravel that peace process.

EU frustrated with UK's Brexit dithering

EU leaders wagged fingers at Theresa May for her inability to deliver on key issues, such as the Irish border, due to her own political weakness.

News in Brief

  1. Austria to veto EU trade deal with South America
  2. Brexit minister asks EU for 'flexibility' to secure a deal
  3. Kovesi has 'sufficient majority' for prosecutor post
  4. France, Finland give UK ultimatum for Brexit plan
  5. Minsk talks bode ill for EU's peace summit on Ukraine
  6. Poll: Poland's nationalist rulers to win October election
  7. Irish lawyers clash with EU commission in Apple case
  8. NGOs take aim at EU smartphone pollution

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Podcast

Trumpworld In Europe

Pastors and plutocrats are sponsoring an ultra-conservative agenda in Europe. Many of them have links to Donald Trump.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Malta PM accused of 'blackmail' over slain reporter
  2. Diplomats back Romania's Kovesi for EU top prosecutor
  3. Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration
  4. Low-carbon cities can unlock €21tn by 2050, report finds
  5. France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants
  6. Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'
  7. A new Commission for the one percent
  8. Juncker: No-deal Brexit 'palpable'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us