Norway facing ‘hard Brexit’ without transitional deal

Politician questions aptness of Norway/Sweden border as model for EU/UK

Marit Berger Røsland, the Norwegian minister for European Economic Area  and EU affairs: spoke about Brexit at the Institute of International and European Affairs. Photograph:  Orn Borgen/AFP/Getty Images

Marit Berger Røsland, the Norwegian minister for European Economic Area and EU affairs: spoke about Brexit at the Institute of International and European Affairs. Photograph: Orn Borgen/AFP/Getty Images

 

Norway would face a “hard Brexit” if the European Union and the United Kingdom were to agree a transitional deal on the single market that excluded the Nordic state, the country’s EU minister has said.

Marit Berger Røsland, the Norwegian minister for European Economic Area (EEA) and EU affairs, said on a visit to Dublin that to preserve the integrity of the single market, the UK and the remaining 27 EU member states should include the three EEA countries – Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein – on any legal arrangements agreed on Brexit.

As EEA members, the countries can access the single market without having to be a member of the EU. In return, the countries accept EU laws covering goods, services and capital and the free movement of people.

Speaking at the Institute of International and European Affairs, Ms Røsland said that Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein should not be treated as “third states” in the negotiation around the terms of Britain’s withdrawal.

“Any transitional arrangement that extends the application of the single market in the UK for a time-limited period after withdrawal should also include the EEA states,” said the 39-year-old Conservative politician.

Fragmented solution

“Otherwise we risk having fragmented solution within the framework of the single market and will of course be a great problem for Norway if we are not included.”

Ms Røsland told The Irish Times it was “a bit early to say” what Norway would like to see in transitional agreements and that it would be “complicated” as Norway was focused on the single market.

She expressed concern about the economic impact of Brexit on Norway as the value of trade with Britain stood at €21 billion in 2015 and there were 20,000 Norwegian citizens living in the UK.

“If we don’t get any transitional arrangements, we will have the hard Brexit and the rest of the single market will have a transition arrangement so for us it is critical,” she said.

Norway had received more front-page news coverage since it first signed the 1992 EEA agreement because of commentators suggesting that Britain replicate Norway’s EEA model post-Brexit, Ms Røsland said.

But she said: “It is hard to see that it will be a model that fits the needs of the UK after Brexit.”

On whether the Norway/Sweden border could be a model for the EU-UK frontier in Northern Ireland, Ms Røsland said that, unlike in Ireland, there were customs checkpoints along their border.

“You now have in Ireland an invisible border, which is different and makes it also more difficult to find the future border solution here,” she said.

Norway aims to process goods crossing their border with Sweden within eight to 10 minutes, she said, while Norwegian and Swedish customs officials are permitted to travel 15km into each of other’s country.