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EU politics: the Norway debate

Richard North, 17/12/2012  


Observer 692-nor.jpg

It is a reflection of the strange times in which we live that, while a rebellion mounts on the gay marriage issue and the anti-EU Nigel Farage makes this his political Alamo, the loss-making Observer yesterday debated the role of Norway and the EU.

Eurosceptics, said the paper, point to the prosperous Scandinavian country as the perfect example of life outside the EU, then asking: "But what would life be like for Britons under the Norwegian model?"

In approaching this subject, though, one can see why the paper is losing so much money. It spends what is clearly a considerable amount sending its reporter, Kevin McKenna, to Oslo to conduct its "own European referendum", ending up telling us not very much at all and considerably less than we get from the likes of The Boiling Frog who spent considerably less doing much better.

Interestingly enough, for all its great expenditure, the Observer mostly relies on this report, part of which we featured in our own report on the issue, and which is widely available on the internet. There was no need to go to Oslo.

Furthermore, those particularly interested could have seen an earlier article, this one on the BBC website last January. Then, we were told that the report said it is "an illusion" to consider Norway as outside the EU. "We are almost as deeply integrated as the UK", the report committee chairman, Prof Fredrik Sejersted, was cited as saying.

What the Observer missed yesterday was the suggestion that British membership of the EEA – which is the nub of the Norwegian model - might be considered a halfway house towards a full exit, or that the EEA agreement itself might be amended if the UK joined it from the outside.

Further, there is no recognition of how much the international situation has changed, with so much of the legislation which comprised the Single Market being determined at global rather than regional level.

That, in my view, is where the coming debate needs to be focused. Globalisation has, in many respects, rendered the EU's Single Market initiative redundant. The rule of the diqule has completely changed the legislative environment, in a way that very few people seem to realise or understand - including, it seems, Prof Fredrik Sejersted.

However, one has to say that, at least, the Observer is discussing the issue of Norway and the EEA – however bad its analysis might be. That is an improvement on much of the eurosceptic community, which seems to be ignoring the debate - a conclusion reached entirely independently by Witterings from Witney.

Strange it is that the europhile Independent sees UKIP as a "potential menace", cautioning that it is "time to take it seriously", when the Party itself seems incapable of being serious about anything, and especially its core issue of withdrawing from the EU.

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