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Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Why the 'Norway option' is not the panacea some think

Listening to the news this morning it is clear that those MPs advocating the 'Norway option' as a solution to the current Parliamentary impasse over Brexit are gaining support. But is it the panacea some are claiming.

This particular solution would keep the UK in the EU single market, through membership of the European Economic Area, the 31-country zone that covers EU member states plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. It also means joining the European Free Trade Area, which also includes Switzerland. Its advocates say that their plan would help the UK minimise the economic impact of Brexit, while also accepting EU rules on goods, services, people and capital, as well as competition and state aid.

Senior officials say the UK would have to follow the relevant parts of the EU rulebook in full and would not be allowed to delay the adoption of laws, a cause of perennial tension between Brussels and EFTA countries.

The EEA agreement consists of 6,000 EU legal acts, up from 1,875 when the treaty came into force in 1994. About 500 EU laws are yet to be adopted by the four EFTA countries, including scores of banking regulations that the EU passed after the financial crisis.

However, as this article in the Guardian outlines, Norway-plus is not the nirvana some are claiming:

EU officials have long been sceptical about the UK choosing the Norway option, which curbs sovereignty. “Norway is the worst of all outcomes for the UK because that is Brexit in name only,” said the senior EU source.

Norway also pays more per capita into the EU budget than the UK, raising questions about “substantially smaller” contributions promised. While the EEA does not cover agriculture or fisheries, existing EU red lines are unchanged, meaning if the UK wants tariff-free access for goods it will face demands that existing rights for EU fishing fleets are maintained.

Joining the EEA also means accepting the free movement of people, the reddest of May’s red lines. Norway-plus advocates have seized on the “emergency brake“ in the EEA agreement, which allows a country to take unilateral measures in the event of “serious, economic or societal difficulty”.

Many in the EU think British MPs have misunderstood the working of the brake, which is subject to consultation with other EEA countries and could lead to fines for misuse.

“I’ve been a bit worried when I read about the marketing of this idea,” said Nymann-Lindegren, who used to participate in EU-EEA weekly meetings. While in theory the UK may be able to negotiate a new system, the current arrangement had limits, she said. “It is not designed for migration management on a regular basis, it is designed for extreme situations.”

So, it would cost us more, we would have no say on the rules and regulations we would be subject to, imposes tariffs on the export of fish and agricultural products and we would continue to be part of an agreement that allows free movement of people, no bad thing but nevertheless one of the Brexiteers' red lines.

Many of those advocating 'Norway-plus' campaigned alongside myself and other Remainers to stay in the EU. They should stop trying to appease the Brexiteers. The only beneficial solution for the UK economy is to stay in the EU.
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