Norwegians nonplussed at 'Norway-plus' Brexit idea

By Gwladys Fouche OSLO (Reuters) - Whatever the outcome of Britain's tortuous divorce proceedings from Europe, there appears to be little help waiting in the wings from non-EU member Norway to join its own special relationship with the bloc. Some Brexit supporters in Britain have touted a so-called 'Norway-plus' scenario, whereby the world's fifth largest economy would emulate the Scandinavian country in finding its own tailored deal with the European Union. Their idea has not gained much domestic momentum.

Reuters December 14, 2018 00:08:00 IST
Norwegians nonplussed at 'Norway-plus' Brexit idea

Norwegians nonplussed at Norwayplus Brexit idea

By Gwladys Fouche

OSLO (Reuters) - Whatever the outcome of Britain's tortuous divorce proceedings from Europe, there appears to be little help waiting in the wings from non-EU member Norway to join its own special relationship with the bloc.

Some Brexit supporters in Britain have touted a so-called "Norway-plus" scenario, whereby the world's fifth largest economy would emulate the Scandinavian country in finding its own tailored deal with the European Union.

Their idea has not gained much domestic momentum.

But even so, in Oslo, there would be low prospects of consensus for any potential U.K. bid to rejoin the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) - between Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein Switzerland and the European Union - which it left in 1973.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg did tell Reuters that Oslo could lend a hand, but there would be little support from others in her governing coalition or the opposition Labour party, Norway's biggest party, on a major issue needing consensus.

Politicians say the nations' interests are too diverse - even though Britain is Norway's biggest trading partner - and they worry U.K. entry to EFTA could swamp other members.

Currently the second largest EU economy, Britain has 66 million people, versus EFTA nations' combined 14 million.

"Norwegian interests are quite different from British interests," Anniken Huitfeldt, leader of parliament's foreign affairs and defence committee, told Reuters, citing fisheries and agriculture policies.

"I do not see the need to extend an invitation for Britain to join EFTA," said Huitfeldt, a Labour lawmaker.

FOOD DIFFERENCES

Norway imposes high tariffs on food to protect farmers in a nation that stretches into the Arctic, whereas Britain is a major food exporter.

Another concern is that London could veto future EFTA decisions, said Abid Raja, vice president of parliament of the centrist Liberal party that is part of Solberg's coalition.

"Norway must think of its own interests and what is best there is that Britain holds a new referendum and stays in the EU," he told Reuters.

Under its arrangements, Norway is currently part of the EU single market - which allows for free movement of goods, capital, services and people - but not the customs union.

With the Norwegian public largely disinterested in the issue, the only political support for Britain joining EFTA seems to be from two small parties, the Socialist Left and the Centre Party, which want to renegotiate Norway's entire relations with the EU. They think British membership of EFTA would give Oslo better bargaining power with Brussels.

"Northern European countries would have a stronger negotiating position and could assess together what kind of relationship we would want to have with the EU," Torgeir Knag Fylkesnes, a Socialist Left lawmaker told Reuters.

"We could ... have a better deal for democracy and Norwegian business."

(Additional reporting by Terje Solsvik in Oslo, William Schomberg in London; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.