Actually Mr Cameron, we Norwegians are happy, rich and free outside the EU
If anything, Norway would like to move further away from the European and its common policies
David Cameron this week said that Britain should not seek to emulate Norway by putting itself outside the European Union. In fact, Norway is happy and free outside. If anything, we would like an even looser relationship with the EU.
The opposition to EU membership in Norway is stronger than ever. The main arguments for staying out are retaining our sovereignty and the democratic deficit of the EU. Still, Norway would be even better off by replacing our current European Economic Area (EEA) agreement with a bilateral trade agreement with the EU.
At referendums in 1972 and 1994, Norwegian voters rejected EU membership. Today 70 per cent say “No” to the EU. The most important issue for No to the EU is that democratic values, nationally and locally, are best retained outside the EU.
Norway is by no means alone outside the Union, even though Brussels likes to portray itself as the centre of everything. On the contrary, most of the important international cooperation on the environment, solidarity and peace takes place outside of the EU. Our neighbours Sweden, Denmark and Finland are all EU members and have lost their place at the diplomatic table, as EU negotiates on behalf of the member states. Norway, on the other hand, is actively participating as an independent state.
The Norwegian economy has been a success outside of the EU. In the run-up to the referendum in 1994, the Yes campaign warned of recession and unemployment if Norway stayed outside of the EU. More than 20 years on it is quite clear that these warnings were false. Today, Norway is trading more than ever with EU countries and with the rest of the world. Unemployment in Norway is at a much lower level than in most European countries.
The European Union is both an internal market and a political and economic union. The EEA agreement integrates Norway into the internal market, but Norway keeps its independence from most of the union’s common policies. They include the EU Customs Union and trade agreements with third party countries. In World Trade Organisation talks, the European Commission represents all EU member-states. Norway has its own voice there.
Because we are outside the Common Agricultural Policy, Norway is free to maintain an agricultural policy in accordance with local needs. Outside the Common Fisheries Policy, Norway is free to find the best balance between coastal fishing and offshore fishing. That way our fisheries can benefit coastal communities and create employment.
We are not part of the euro, so our monetary policy is set in Norway for Norway. We are not part of the EU’s attempts to coordinate taxation, so Norway is free to set taxes and duties to finance our welfare state as we wish.
Some people say that Norway is forced to accept all EU regulations. In fact, despite the EEA agreement, most EU regulations do not apply to Norway. Between 2000 and 2013, Norway adopted 4,723 directives and regulations through the EEA agreement. In the same period, the EU adopted 52,183 pieces of legislation. Of all EU legislation, only 9 per cent was adopted into the EEA agreement.
Still, the scope of the EEA agreement is extending. Key Norwegian policies, covering issues like energy, the management of natural resources, alcohol regulations and, workers’ rights and trade, have been challenged. Polls have shown that a majority thinks the EU still has too much power in Norway.
For the campaign group I lead, No to the EU, a bilateral trade deal with the EU would be better, where changes are made through negotiations between the parties.
Outside the EU, Norway has the freedom to decide what course we follow, at home and abroad. We are free to use fiscal and monetary policy to create employment and secure the welfare of our people, even in times of economic hardship. In addition, as an independent state we keep control over important natural resources. Outside the EU, we are free to make our own choices.