EU identity crisis as Norway considers mini-Brexit – and it’s not even a member state!

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Norwegians go to the polls on September 13, with a number of parties demanding the country reduce its ties with the EU. While Norway isn’t an EU member state, it is closely linked to the bloc via membership of the European Economic Area (EEA).

The current pro-Brussels government, led by conservative Erna Solberg, has supported this relationship.

However, the ruling party has been losing support rapidly over the past year, with some form of left-green coalition now seen as most likely.

This could include the Centre Party, which represents rural interests, and the Socialist Left, both of which are demanding an end to Norway’s EEA membership.

Centre Party leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum recently hit out at “unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels”.

He added: “The problem with the agreement we have today is that we gradually transfer more and more power from the Storting [Norwegian parliament], from Norwegian lawmakers to the bureaucrats in Brussels who are not accountable.”

Membership of the EEA gives Norway full access to the lucrative European single market.

However, it has to implement many laws made in Brussels, despite not being represented in the European Parliament or the European Council.

Critics argue this is a democratic deficit that infringes on Norwegian sovereignty.

Norway voted against EU membership twice, in 1972 and 1994.

Polling suggests a majority of the population support the current EEA arrangement.

Labour leader Jonas Gahr Store, who could replace Ms Solberg as prime minister, does not support the Norwegian exit from the EEA.

However if he goes into coalition with the Centre Party or Socialist Left, which do, it could severely complicate relations with Brussels.


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Speaking to the Daily Mail Ulf Sverdrup, who heads the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, said Britain’s difficulties with Brexit put some Norwegians off renegotiating their membership.

He commented: “In Norway, we saw that the EU is a very tough negotiating partner and even a big country like Britain did not manage to win very much in its negotiations.”

However, Mr Sverdrup noted relations with Brussels could “become a source of friction” for the next Norwegian government.

He explained: “Even though the past 25 years have been a period of increasingly close cooperation, and though we can therefore expect that it will probably continue, there are still question marks’ surrounding Norway’s future ties to the EU.”

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Britain voted to leave the EU in June 2016, by 52 percent of the vote to 48 percent.

Departure was blocked several times in Parliament, while Remain campaigners sought to overturn the result.

Brexit finally took place in January 2020, after Boris Johnson became Prime Minister.

Until December Britain remained in a Brexit transition period, during which it continued to implement many EU laws and pay into the Brussels budget.

This was finally replaced by a new trade deal with Mr Johnson, which ended free movement and payments to the EU.

The EU hasn’t gained any new members since 2007, when Romania and Bulgaria joined the bloc.
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