UK must be wary of EU exit, says Norway minister
The UK should look at the downside of leaving the EU and the loss of influence it would bring, Norway’s foreign minister has warned during a visit to Ireland.
Espen Barth Eide, here for a two-day visit as Ireland begins its presidency of the EU, also said groups in the UK had asked the Norwegian government about their status outside the EU.
“I would just say a country that is a member, that is considering alternative options, they should also look at the potential downsides of the absence of political access,” he said.
As the UK contemplates its future in the EU, members of the governing Conservative Party are looking to the Norwegian model as a way of leaving the bloc but remaining close to it. “I can confirm there is an interest from several environments in Britain in order to find out what is the Norwegian model,” said Mr Eide, who met Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore.
He said while Norway had access to the EU’s internal market, there were downsides to staying outside. “What we do not get is the same level of political influence we would have had as a member. It is good in that it gives you access to a market but it is problematic from a democratic perspective.”
He also said Norway was not “80 per cent but 100 per cent” a member of the internal market which included regulation of financial services. Since this issue was of concern to the UK, it should be aware of how Norway adopts such regulations.
Mr Eide said he was in Ireland to hold “a close and early round of discussions with the new presidency”. Members of his government would be attending some of the EU informal ministerial meetings, he said. Norway was “the most connected outsider” to the EU.
Mr Gilmore said they had discussed the Middle East peace process, Iran, Syria and developments in Burma. They had also discussed increasing trade between Norway and the EU, and Norway and Ireland.
Norway is Ireland’s 11th largest trading partner with annual trade between the two countries worth €3 billion. Exports to Norway were worth about €1 billion in 2011. Norway is also a major source for Ireland’s energy, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.