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EU Referendum: another look at Norway

2016-04-18 02:43:06

It is one of the classic examples of bias by omission that, when the legacy media talk about Norway, they tend to cite Conservative Party politicians or their allies – Europhiles who hanker after joining the EU. But, when we get even one breaking ranks, as has The Sun, we get a completely different picture.

In this case, the newspaper has gone for Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, leader of the Centre Party, the same grouping from which Anne Tvinnereim hails. And, predictably enough, Vedum tells the UK to step out of Brussels' shadow, saying: "You won't regret it - we haven't".

Veredun, or course, best represents a nation which twice rejected EU membership, first in 1972 and again in 1994, whose polling currently has a clear 72 percent against membership.

His message to the Sun on Sunday is for us "to believe in yourselves and take the plunge". He adds: "Norway is proof it can work on your own. We rejected EU membership and we've never looked back".

Echoing a sentiment we've heard from Anne Tvinnereim, Veredun also says: "Many people thought it would be a disaster, thought we would be isolated in business and left behind by the rest of Europe — but that hasn't been the case. In fact we are better for it".

There's plenty more of that from any number of opposition politicians – all the British media has to do is ask. It could even dip a tentative toe into the water and note that "experts believe a Brexit could see the UK follow the Norway model and prosper as part of the European Economic Area".

We do, however, have an awful long way to go when we get this newspaper describing the EEA as: "an association of the EU’s 28 member states which are allowed to trade freely but are not tied to Brussels' laws and regulations". This is a bizarre was of describing the EEA, participation in which requires adoption of the entire EEA acquis.

Not particularly helpful, either, is Kathrine Kleveland, leader of Norway's No2EU, who is also quoted saying she believes her country's success is mostly down to it not being fully governed by Brussels. She says: "The EU interferes with nine per cent of our laws. We are able to make most of our own laws that are relevant to our own people".

That "nine percent" is a figure the No2EU group have been pushing out, even though it is not actually true. They would be far better sticking to the figure offered by the EEA Secretariat.

However, using EEA Lex (standing at 5,046 laws currently in force), and the Directory of EU Legislation (recording 19,532 laws in force), it is always possible to work out the up-to-date figure. At the moment, it stands at 26 percent.

The other issue is immigration, which has The Sun citing Snorre Valen, deputy leader of the Socialist Left Party. He says the UK "could well thrive" out of the EU but warns that Britain should be wary if it thinks leaving would mean closing the borders to migrants. Norway, he says, takes twice as many migrants per head as the UK.

This, though, is considered partly due to the Schengen agreement, to which the UK is not a party. "There is no reason Britain shouldn't do what we did in 1994 and say no to the EU", Valen says.

So there it is. Norway, according to at least one newspaper, is an option. It is far too much to ask for the legacy media to cope with anything sophisticated, such as the idea of the EEA comprising an interim option, pending negotiation of a longer-term deal.

Interestingly, even Cummings understood this, recording in his blog in June last that Flexcit "was based on using the EEA as a transition phase – remaining in the Single Market and retaining a (modified) version of free movement – while a better deal, inevitably taking years, is negotiated". This, he also noted, was "an attempt to take the Single Market out of the referendum debate".

In one of life's fascinating coincidences, that blog was published on 23 June 2015 – exactly a year before what will be referendum day. Cummings was to discuss the merits of Flexcit when he'd "studied it more". Even though we're still waiting, at least Norway is still on the table.

And, perhaps, that's just as well. French economy minister, Emmanuel Macron is saying that Britain would be "completely killed" in global trade negotiations if it voted to leave the EU.

This is another man who doesn't know what he's talking about, but it is as well not to give such people any more scope than we have to. The UK as part of Efta becomes the fourth largest trading bloc in the world. Norway, is more than just an option. It's our pathway to freedom.