Norway for now—or never?

By On November 01, 2018

Norway for nowâ€"or never?

Brexit optionsNorway for nowâ€"or never?

Why many mps are coming around to the idea of a temporary Norwegian arrangement after Brexit

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AWEAKNESS OF Brexiteers has been failing to spell out a clear alternative to membership of the European Union. One such option is Norway’s model, outside the EU but inside its single market. Both the government and Parliament have rejected the idea of joining Norway in the European Economic Area (EEA). But it has been revived in a new form by Nick Boles, a Tory MP. His “Norway for now” plan is backed by fellow Tories like Nicky Morgan and Labour MPs such as Frank Field.

The benefits of the EEA lie in keeping the single market but escaping the EU’s farm and fisheries policies and the direct jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. The drawbacks are becoming a rule-take r in that market and accepting free movement of people from the EU, as well as paying into its budget. EEA countries can strike third-country trade deals, but as they are not in a customs union with the EU, membership does not by itself remove the need for border controls, which Britain has promised to avoid in Northern Ireland.

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Mr Boles is clear that his plan works only if Parliament rejects a Brexit deal put to it by Theresa May. But he puts the probabilit y of the prime minister’s deal failing as high as 50%. And he does not see a parliamentary majority emerging for a second referendum, which Mrs May is firmly against. For all sides, he says, Norway for now would surely be preferable to a no-deal Brexit. He has also changed his original idea of fixing a three-year time limit in the EEA before moving towards a Canada-style free-trade deal. Now he talks merely of “temporary” membership while some alternative is negotiated.

His idea faces formidable practical and legal obstacles. Businesses would not welcome having to adapt twice to Brexit. Switching horses this late in the negotiations would be awkward. Brexit is less than 150 days away, but to join the EEA requires accession to the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), a process that could take months or years. Mr Boles reckons there are ways round this, but concedes that his plan may also require a transition. That would only add to the uncertainties facing business.

Temporary membership of the EEA would be hard to sell to others. The EEA countries have said they would welcome Britain as a permanent member. But as Erna Solberg, Norway’s prime minister, put it diplomatically when she met Mrs May in Oslo this week, joining with the declared intention of leaving a few years later would be “a little bit difficult” for other members.

Then there is the Irish border. EFTA/EEA membership may make it legally hard to be in a customs union with the EU. And that may make it impossible to drop the Northern-Ireland-only backstop that Mrs May is resisting in the Brexit withdrawal deal. Mr Boles suggests that some form of associate membership of the EEA could allow the creation of a temporary customs union with the EU, but many in Brussels disagree.

Last is the issue of free movement of people. EEA and EFTA members must accept this as a principle, a big reason why Brexiteers oppose their model. Continued free movement is an argument for do ubting if the Norway model is sustainable for Britain in the long run. Yet there are ways to limit free movement, and net migration from EU countries has also fallen sharply since 2016.

Norway for now is under attack from ardent Leavers and Remainers alike. But that could make it a compromise. For all its problems, it would be foolish to rule it out amid the chaos of a parliamentary rejection of a Brexit deal this winter.

Source: Google News Norway | Netizen 24 Norway

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