EEA no refuge from Brexit, Solberg says

Norway’s PM says the British must decide on their own way ahead


Image: PublicDomainPictures / George Hodan

Victoria Garza
Norway Today

There is still an imminent danger of a hard Brexit, warns Erna Solberg. But the prime minister does not want to offer the European Economic Area as a crisis solution.

In the British debate, the EEA has often been mentioned as a possible “port of refuge” for the United Kingdom if the Brexit process fails. But such a solution has strong objections from Solberg.

“We cannot have any intermediate stations in such a complex system as the EEA, where you will have a country that only parks there for a small period,” says Solberg.

The idea is that Britain is already a party to the EEA Agreement as a member state of the EU and that it should therefore be possible for the British to report to European Free Trade Association and thus remain in the agreement.

In this way, the EEA could become an emergency harbor that solves a large number of the practical problems that will arise if the British are forced to leave the EU without having received a tailor-made withdrawal agreement.

“But the EEA is too complicated to just use it as a gateway,” says Solberg. According to her, it is a mistake to start expanding the menu of possible solutions now.

“I believe that what they need first and foremost in the UK is decision-making.”

On March 22, Solberg was the guest of honor at the EU summit in Brussels, where she was invited, with representatives from Iceland and Liechtenstein, to mark 25 years since the EEA agreement came into force.

On the way to the summit, the Norwegian prime minister received several questions from the international press about the “Norwegian model” as an alternative for the British. But Solberg answered evasively.

According to her, there is no reason why Norway should teach the British.

It is important that the British themselves decide what they want, she says.

The EEA celebration was in stark contrast to what otherwise dominated the summit, namely the crisis around Brexit.

The night before, the EU and the UK agreed to postpone the divorce by at least two weeks until April 12. It is an agreement that Solberg welcomes.

“It is in itself good that there is more time. But the most important thing is that the UK is starting to decide, that they actually do not just vote down proposals, but that they vote for a way forward,” Solberg says.

“It gives a little more time to figure it out. But there is still an imminent danger of a hard Brexit,” she warns.

This article was originally published on Norway Today.

This article originally appeared in the April 5, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.

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