Can Norway show the UK how to prosper outside the EU?

 
Stavanger Stavanger is a pretty but also prosperous part of a Norway outside the EU

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As the UK builds up to a possible referendum on EU membership, people will be searching for hints at what life might be like outside the union.

And one country many Euro-sceptics are keen to point to is Norway.

Despite several referendums of its own, it has consistently chosen to stay outside the EU.

But that does not mean it has nothing to do with the member states.

Around 75% of its trade is with the EU, and its economy is booming.

Own sovereignty

It's scarcely surprising then that UKIP points to Norway as a model for a UK that could thrive outside the EU.

North East UKIP chairman Richard Elvin said: "I do believe Norway shows the world doesn't end if you're outside the EU.

"Norway has its own sovereignty, and it can pick and choose who it trades with. Of course it trades with the EU, but it also has agreements with 20 other countries."

Start Quote

Richard Elvin

I do believe Norway shows the world doesn't end if you're outside the EU”

End Quote Richard Elvin North East UKIP chairman

But how good an example is Norway?

To find out I was despatched from Newcastle to the Norwegian port of Stavanger - a tough assignment I know.

It didn't take long to find a local who was prepared to back UKIP's arguments up.

Bjarne Kvadsheim is a city councillor in Stavanger. His Centre Party has always opposed any plan for Norway to join the EU.

He said: "Norway and the UK are similar so I understand why they are using us as an example of how you can manage outside the EU.

"We sell things that the EU wants, and that's important, so the trade is good between the EU and Norway today.

"And we have our own democracy, Norwegian politicians make decisions, Brussels doesn't."

EU directives

Not everyone in Stavanger agrees though with Bjarne. Indeed, even his brother has a different view.

Henrik Kvadsheim has campaigned for Norway to join the EU. And he thinks UKIP is mistaken.

Norway can't just ignore the EU. In order to get access to its single market, it has to adopt many EU laws and directives.

Bjarne and Henrik Kvadsheim Bjarne (left) and Henrik Kvadsheim may be brothers but they disagree on Norway's relationship with the EU

But of course because it's not a member state, it can't take part in the discussions which frame those regulations.

Henrik Kvadsheim believes UK voters would do well to bear that in mind when deciding whether to leave the EU.

He believes while Norwegians might be happy being the "little brother" of the EU, the UK would not be happy with losing influence.

He said: "Around 50% of what the UK produces you export to the European Union.

"You will still need to export that, and you will still need to implement all the regulations from Brussels. That would be your problem as it is Norway's now.

"I don't think the British would accept all the regulations from Brussels without having any influence over them."

European champions

And indeed Norway is more enthusiastic than the UK about some of the EU regulations.

Start Quote

Svein Tuastad

You cannot use Norway as an example of being outside the EU”

End Quote Svein Tuastad University of Stavanger

Svein Tuastad from the University of Stavanger said: "You cannot use Norway as an example of being outside the EU as we are almost the European champions of implementing EU regulations.

"Around a third of Norwegian laws include European legislation. We are perhaps more integrated than the UK."

And it does seem those regulations haven't inconvenienced Norway's successful economy.

But there may be another reason for that.

It has huge reserves of oil and gas that have helped insulate it from Europe's economic difficulties.

One man who works in that industry is Geordie ex-pat Michael Velle-George.

He moved to Stavanger seven years ago to provide IT services for an oil company and has now set up permanent home in Norway.

He believes Norway's oil reserves give it a bargaining power with the EU that the UK would lack.

And he's not entirely convinced life outside the union is that perfect.

As I and many other visitors discover, Stavanger is an expensive place to eat and live. And Michael believes being outside the EU can affect everyday life.

Stavanger harbour Stavanger and Norway may be economically successful but the cost of living is high

He said: "I mean you can see here in Norway that basic goods cost a lot of money, and the selection is not so great.

"These are perhaps the ways the normal man in the street might be affected."

Bargaining power

Despite that scepticism, UKIP remains convinced Norway is a model to follow.

It points to the freedom that its farming and fishing industries enjoy, and the fact it can make its own decisions.

And it believes the value of UK imports and exports to the EU would give it bargaining power within the same free trade agreement that includes Norway.

And at the very least the Norwegian experience suggests life outside the EU isn't an icy wasteland.

But as the Kvadsheim brothers show, not even the natives agree on whether their country provides an example or a warning for the UK.

We may then just have to make up our own minds, rather than rely on Norwegians to guide us if and when we have our own referendum.

 
Richard Moss, Political editor, North East & Cumbria Article written by Richard Moss Richard Moss Political editor, North East & Cumbria

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 36.

    The 2 referendum(a) are happening the wrong way around!

    The UK referendum to leave the EU should have been before Scotland's referendum to leave the UK. Cameron got it wrong, again.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 35.

    @Steve... nope that means that Scotland as an independent nation would have to reapply for entry and unless you can plough in the same ARIDICULOUS amount of money as the UK do at the moment... the other EU nations will not want you.
    Why do you think countries like Spain, France, etc. want the UK to stay... they get max benefits for the low input. Would be a very sad if Scotland left the UK.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 34.

    Moss makes a good argument for Scottish independence. Yes Scotland! We're better together as two independent countries, The Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of South Britain and Northern Ireland.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 33.

    Substitute Norway with Scotland..

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 32.

    31.Oldschooltie
    I think you will find that the UK will end, if Scotland ends the political union with England, it was the political union that created the UK. Dont be surprised that the politicians in Westminster as well as a state broadcaster want to perpetuate the myth that both the union flag and the UK will somehow carry on. Scotland and England will be successor states within the EU

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 31.

    Maybe the article's only in the England section because Scotland wants its independence away from us. If this happens, then Scotland won't be part of the UK, it'll be an independent state?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 30.

    Have I fallen into a rabbit hole and found wonderland?

    Strange place where EU exit strategies are being discussed in an open forum. People actually allowed to offer an opinion. In Scotland no such egalitarianism is offered openly to us by the BBC.

    That says it all really.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 29.

    I find it strange that an article about the UK can only be found on the England page and that comments are allowed. Nothing on the Scotland page (which is still in the UK) and no comments allowed on any subject.The sooner Scotland is independent the sooner we could emulate Norway and prosper without london draining everything from us.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 28.

    With envious glances towards Norway, are UK politicians finally admitting that UK is part of "the arc of insolvency"?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 27.

    A UK political party suggesting pulling out of a union and emulating Scandinavian success???? This in the England section?????

    Either I've taken a wrong turning on the site map or irony is not lost on the BBC.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 26.

    Thank you UKIP for pointing out that Norway is sucessful, the irony is not lost amongst the Scots reading this
    By the way why is this in the 'England' section and not the 'UK' section?
    Never mind with the wealth coming to Scotland after it ends the union with England and ends the UK next year, UKIP will be able to point to the success of Scotland!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 25.

    UKIP use the EU as a convenient whipping horse that cant argue back. Anti EU sentiment has become a 'Monster' created by the 'right' that will come back to haunt. I fear that people are so ignorant that an informed decision is impossible, why cannot politicians of all parties cannot expose UKIP for what they really stand for: which is largely 'bloke in pub said politics' and false information.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 24.

    The irony is that if the UK had managed the proceeds of North Sea oil as Norway has done, instead of frittering it away demolishing manufacturing industry and jobs, we would be in a better position to take such a view, unfortunately we can't and the UKIP and Tory right position is pie in the shy now.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 23.

    So now UKIP wants the Uk to be like Norway, but that aspiration is not allowed in Scotland. Somehow all that oil wealth would be detrimental to the Scottish economy.

    The bbc in Scotland continues to censor any comment on Scottish articles and blogs. Are they scared? You bet they are.

    Whetever happened to the fairness demanded by the bbc charter?

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 22.

    Why is this article under "News England". Not News UK, and certainly News Scotland. Is it because BBC Scotland would NEVER encourage such comparisons with Norway for fear that the population might start thinking for themselves? Meanwhile BBC Scotland continues to stifle any information which might lead to the people taking their own decisions over matters which are directly relevant to them

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 21.

    Farage and UKIP are hypocrites, they either believe in smaller government closer to the people, or they believe in larger centralised government! ...one policy for yhe UK and another for Scotland.

    UKIP will have to rename themselves rUKIP when Scotland Votes Yes 2014.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 20.

    The BBC says:

    'Stavanger and Norway may be economically successful but the cost of living is high'

    Yeah, and so are the wages ! Great in-depth reporting once again. Norway leads the way in just about every 'quality of life' table published. As for the 'Geordie' who moved to Stavanger - I presume he moved for a better job/lifestyle, yet he's slagging the place off. Only a Englishman...

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 19.

    Chris H

    Norway & Switzerland cannot select what legislation they choose to adopt from the EU. Norway pays €340m a year into the EU budget & implements about 75% of European laws including the working time directive. Switzerland has 120 bi-lateral agreements with the EU & also pays into the budget.

    The EU holds all the cards and the UK would have none at all if we left.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 18.

    The real issue is that Britain has never wholly embraced the EU and hence has never built sufficient influence to feel that it has parity with France and Germany in shaping how it evolves.

    The big issue now are the fees. If you save £15bn a year in fees, that reduces the deficit by 15% straight away.

    The real question is building an economy which can withstand concerted EU action.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 17.

    We would have even more advantages than Norway if we dumped the EU membership.There are 54 Commonwealth countries that do not want to be rules by Britain but want to trade with us.
    The huge amount of money saved would quickly help to eradicate a lot of our debt.Staying in the EU club only helps the rich to get richer.

 

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