Could Britain emulate Norway-EU relations?

Read few comments.


1. In theory, would you say that Norway-EU relations could be an example for UK-EU relations in case Britain will drift away from the EU?

2. Do you see any probability that Norway may hold another referendum about the EU membership in medium term, or basically it is not a topic at all?


Kristian SteinnesProfessor, Department of Historical Studies, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

1. Norway-EU relations would not be a workable example for UK-EU relations if Britain should drift away from the EUM. In theory, as you indicate, it could of course be an alternative. But in the real world it would not. The reason is, in my opinion, that Britain would not accept a role as policy taker without being a policy maker (as Norway has). Britain is a big country in a EU context, and it has a history as an influential nation. According to the EEA Agreement, Norway has taken on a range of obligations, primarily connected to the single market (but also to several other policy areas), which include that the country has to implement laws and regulations which are made in Brussels, even though it does not participate in the decision making process. In other words, it is not only the elected body (Parliament) that adopt laws in Norway. As many as between 8-10.000 acts, adopted by the policy machinery in Brussels, have been incorporated in the Norwegian legal framework. I would be very surprised if Britain would accept such an arrangement.

2.  I see no prospects for another EU referendum in the short or medium term in Norway. The topic is anathema to most political parties (except the Agrarian Party – the Centre Party (Senterpartiet)). Despite being one of Norway’s most important (foreign) policy issues, it is hardly publicly discussed. The government recently commissioned a report on EU-Norway relations. It was submitted in 2012. It was called ‘Utenfor og innenfor’ (outside and inside), and emphasised that the Norwegian society and Norwegian authorities faced many democratic, political and economic challenges connected to its EU relations. Yet nothing has happened. The report has hardly been discussed. So I do not see any sign of another referendum. However, if anything dramatically, unforeseen, should take place – for example if serious economic problems (unlikely), this could change. But otherwise, I think the Norwegian society is prepared to accept the existing democratic deficit – as long as the country is able to participate on equal terms as full member of the single market.

Terje KnutsenAssociate Professor, Department of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen

1. In theory, a membership in the EEA could be a model for the UK as well, as it would keep it economically integrated with the EU. But in practice, the EEA agreement is more like a one-way agreement, giving Norway access to European markets without giving us any influence over future development. In practice, we are passively implementing all new directives and legislation from the EU, something many in Norway sees as a democratic problem. I do not believe the UK would accept such a position.

2. As to Norwegian EU membership, that will not become an issue in the foreseeable future. Either Norway or EU will have to change dramatically for this to come on the agenda. The newspaper Financial Times wrote the day after we said no in 1994 that Norway is probably the only country in Europe that can afford being outside the union. That is still the case.


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