Would the ‘Norway solution’ be good for the United Kingdom? ‘Absolute tosh from the Tories’ says senior Lib Dem MEP - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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Would the ‘Norway solution’ be good for the United Kingdom? ‘Absolute tosh from the Tories’ says senior Lib Dem MEP

Thursday, 30 August 2012

On last night's episode of The World Tonight for BBC Radio 4, Sir Graham Watson, Liberal Democrat MEP for the South West, took on arch-eurosceptic UKIP Conservative MEP for the South East Daniel Hannan and refuted his suggestions, and that of many of his fellow eurosceptic colleagues in Westminster that leaving the EU for a ‘Norway solution’ would be beneficial for the UK.

I’m not at all tempted by the Norwegian model,” he said. “The Norwegians are extremely wealth so are able to have, if you like, the luxury of staying out but it is costing them a lot of money: they have to pay into the administration and development fund of the European Union just like full EU members - they pay more per head of population than the UK does actually - and they have no say in how that money is spent.

We would end up outside the European Union paying for the privilege of a simple free trade agreement and having no influence on how our money was spent or the laws that we have to abide by.

Asked to refute this, Mr Hannan said he was “unaware of anyone advocating that the UK should exact replicate the Norway option, we would get our own deal and the Swiss deal is more attractive than the Norwegian one” and that “far from joining a growing single market, we have manacled ourselves to a corpse”.

Hitting back, Sir Graham said:

I think that kind of tosh from the Tories blights Britain’s business prospects. First of all, who is going to come and invest and create jobs here if they think we’re about to pull out of a market worth five hundred million of the world’s wealthiest consumers, and secondly, are we likely to get the same kind of deals in trading with India and China on our own as we are part of the single market? No.

In the programme’s feature (listen in full above), the presenter Charlotte Ashton speaks to Professor Fredrik Sejersted, who was tasked with chairing a review committee into Norway’s status as member of the European Economic Area. He says Norway is “inside rather than outside” and has taken more than three quarters of European law and policy and integrated it into Norwegian law in order to gain access to the world’s largest single market while not being a full member. For him, the only rational conclusion is for Norway to join the EU – “we are effectively inside the EU but without voting rights”, he said.

The radio report also notes that none of Norway’s main political parties have ruled out EU membership one day and features an interview with Ketil Solvik-Olsen, a leading Member of Parliament and economic spokesman for the opposition conservative Progress Party, who said “we can stay out of this because we’re so rich because of the oil; let’s be honest about it, we have all this wealth and we’re afraid that we have to share it with a lot of other countries. It is pure selfishness and if you’re going to make Europe a better place you can’t have this selfishness as a bottom line to what you’re doing.

As a pro-European who would like to see his country as an influential player at the heart of European decision-making, I cannot help but dwell on that last sentence. The UK should not succumb to playing petty party politics and put our place in Europe at stake.


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