Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce a new plan with senior ministers this week, aimed at unblocking talks on Britain’s future relationship with the EU. According to the Financial Times, hopes are rising that a month of “intensified” negotiations starting on June 29 will yield results. Diplomats confirmed that there has been a shift in mood following Mr Johnson’s virtual summit with EU chiefs last week, with both sides speaking of a “new phase” of less formalistic negotiations and a greater readiness to do business.
The EU side has signalled its willingness to move on key sticking points in order to strike a deal.
However, it warned that it would not sacrifice its principles.
As tensions are set to rise in the incoming days, unearthed reports shed light on Britain’s position in the negotiations.
In a 2018 report by The Independent, Jonas Helseth, a Norwegian ex-EU adviser, explained why Britain could never accept Norway’s model post-Brexit.
Mr Helseth, who is now the director of Bellona Europa, an international environmental NGO, wrote: “Firstly, what might seem comfortable enough for Norway would hardly prove so for Britain.
“Norway does indeed have access to the EU Single Market without full EU membership, but that comes at a democratic cost.
“In fact, it is an illusion: I would call it membership without a vote. Even Norway’s own EU minister admitted as much.
“Ironically, non-member Norway is among the countries most efficient in adopting EU directives – in most cases without debate.
“So why is there so little outrage? Again not without irony, it seems that although Norway twice rejected EU membership, Norwegians appear to suffer very little from all this EU regulation imposed on them.”
Mr Helseth argued that Britons would not feel the same.
He explained: “Norwegians tend to take the view that, as a country of five million, Norway’s vote would seldom tip the scales in EU decision making. Generally it aligns with its Nordic neighbours, Britain and the Netherlands on key matters such as labour market flexibility and free trade.
“Given the horse-trading nature of EU politics, Norway might have more often punched above its weight than its people assumed if it were an EU member. Finland, with a similar population size, has regularly proven that possible.
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“But indeed, Norway would rarely be setting the agenda; its absence from EU decision making should therefore matter mainly to Norwegians, and less so to others. Should Britain decide to leave, however, the scales would tip for real.”
With a ‘Norwegian solution’, Mr Helseth claimed, the UK would be obliged to keep implementing EU regulations to keep that market access: regulations then dominated by French, German, Italian, Polish and Spanish politics; regulations with which the UK would certainly be less comfortable.
The former adviser concluded that, when it comes to accessing the EU Single Market, the UK cannot have its cake and eat it.
He added: “While I may not personally agree with all UK positions, British influence in EU politics is to my mind critical in retaining a balanced EU that can secure our welfare and progress.
“I firmly believe it is in Britain’s interest to refine and widen that influence, rather than leaving the playing field entirely to other EU powers.”