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Trade deal warning over EU exit

Belfast Telegraph | 01 June 2015

Trade deal warning over EU exit

Norway’s foreign minister said the UK is an ’important voice’ for economic growth and cutting red tape within the EU

The planned free trade deal between the European Union and the US could cause "issues" for Britain if it leaves the EU, Norway’s foreign minister has warned.

Norway, which is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) but not the EU, is regarded by some Eurosceptics as a model for the UK if it votes to leave the Union in the in/out referendum planned by the end of 2017.

Foreign minister Borge Brende said the question of "Brexit" was a matter for the British people.

But he said Norway regards the UK as an "important voice" for economic growth and cutting red tape within the EU, and the 28-nation bloc would be weaker if Britain left.

Asked whether his country offered a model for the UK outside the EU, Mr Brende said Norway’s wealth and its generous welfare system are "built on strong integration with Europe", with 80% of the country’s exports going to the EU.

But he added: "What is a challenge is that we do implement a lot of the decisions of the EU without being around the table... Our arrangement, being part of the EEA, is that we have to implement all the EU directives but w e are not around the table when these are discussed in Brussels."

Mr Brende said the arrangement gave Norway "a bit more flexibility" in other areas, such as having its own currency and foreign and security policy.

But he said the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and US could be a "challenge" for Oslo.

"If that materialises, it would be a challenge being outside, so a deal would be an issue in Norway," he said. "If the TTIP is established, where will Norway fit into this, since we are part of the single market but not necessarily part of this?

"These are issues that the UK would face as an outsider of the EU too."

Asked whether Norway would like to see the UK remain in the EU, Mr Brende said: "Europe without Britain I don’t think is as strong as Europe with Britain inside.

"This is of course for the British people to decide, but we see Britain as an important voice in the EU. We know that Britain is now seeing a recovery in its economy, we want to see the European economy also recover, we want to see more economic growth.

"We know that part of this is also addressing bureaucracy in Brussels, looking at it in a no-nonsense manner. I think Britain is that kind of voice in the EU.

"My perspective is that I think Britain also can have more influence inside the EU than outside, but of course this is just a perspective from someone outside."

 source: Belfast Telegraph