Solberg opens EEA door for the UK

Prime Minister Erna SolbergPrime Minister Erna Solberg.Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix

Prime Minister Erna Solberg has concluded that If the United Kingdom wishes to join the EEA,Norway will accept it.


“If the British want to become a member of the EEA, they’re welcome,” said Solberg to NTB news.

Thus she confirmed in Monday’s announcement in the Financial Times, which revealed that Solberg has now dispelled scepticism and decided to open up for British EEA membership.

Solberg emphasised to NTB that she does not look at this as a likely outcome.

“But if Britain want it, then it’s not something that Norway is against,” she said.

Not applicable to May

Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May, has been crystal clear that the “Norwegian” model is not a suitable alternative for her.

The reason is that membership of the EU’s internal market through the EEA means accepting the four freedoms, i.e. free flow of goods, services, money and people across borders. In addition,it means that you must accept EU laws and regulations without having the right to vote when these are adopted.

There is little temptation there for the British Conservatives, who had self-sufficiency and national control over immigration as the main goals when Britain left the EU.

“It’s part of the things we accept in the EEA agreement that the UK will have trouble with,” said Solberg.

The debate has flared up

The motions have caused many to write off the possibility that EEA membership could be an outcome of the Brexit negotiations.

But lately, the debate has flared up again. This is due in particular to a decision made in the House of Commons last week.There, the majority demanded that the government must have EEA membership as a target for the Brexit negotiations.

The case is now being processed in the house, which will probably reject the requirements. But the EEA solution also has strong followers, especially among politicians from the Labour party.

Norwegian scepticism

On the Norwegian side, the government has long been sceptical about the idea of allowing the UK into the EEA.There are several reasons for this, including:

* The important factor that Norway and the United Kingdom have conflicting interests in key areas such as agriculture and fisheries.

* That Norway is now the biggest country in the EEA, with Iceland and Liechtenstein as the little ones.If the Britons join, they would dominate.

* In addition, the British have a tradition of a highly conflicted relationship with the EU. It could be transmitted to the EEA if they joined the agreement.

Seeing benefits

Solberg knows that British EEA membership would not be problem free. But these issues could be solved,and British membership would also have some obvious benefits, she believes.

One advantage is that the EEA club would get significantly more weight if the UK joined. At the same time,EEA membership would ensure good trade relations between the UK and Norway.

“It is not without challenges if they wish to join. But Norway can not hold the EEA as its own either,’’ said the prime minister.


© NTB scanpix / #Norway Today