Democracies cannot exist without compromise, says a former ECJ judgeby Franklin Dehousse / May 6, 2019 / Leave a comment
The Norway option regularly resurfaces in the Brexit debate, when Leavers and Remainers become fed up with insulting and/or aggressing each other. Interestingly, there is nothing that the two sides agree on, except that the Norway option is some new kind of slavery, much worse than their own solution. The first tribe cannot countenance “Brexit in name only” and does not want free movement. The second will not surrender the British veto. Then there are technical questions about how you implement a Norway outcome.
But despite the political and practical objections a Norway soft Brexit could actually provide the way forward.
There are in fact two groups within the Norway faction. Some hope for the re-entry of the United Kingdom into the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), and consequently into the European Economic Area (EEA), effectively the single market. Others prefer the negotiation of a bespoke association agreement, which would be more or less based on the same principles, but with specific institutions, and possibly with separate access to the EFTA Court. In both cases, it could be necessary to negotiate in parallel a customs union agreement.
Of course, the UK’s re-entry into the EFTA and EEA would require the approval of the EFTA members, and of the EU. Most probably some institutional adjustments will have to be discussed, in the short- to medium-term, because the UK’s presence will modify the nature of EFTA. The UK’s weight will also need to be reflected in the make-up of the EFTA secretariat.
However, if politicians still have the strategic vision (a big if), all parties should show some flexibility. Though the re-entry of the UK into EFTA would change the organisation’s present cosiness, it would also very substantially increase its members’ influence. This consideration would also apply to the UK. Though some nostalgic minds seem to hanker after splendid isolation, belonging to a coalition of states with privileged trade access to the single market would be much more efficient. The EU itself has a strong incentive to create a functioning structure for all neighbouring states unwilling or unable to participate in its political objectives but desiring strong trade cooperation. The present “neighbourhood policy” for nearby countries demonstrates this while mammoth preferential trade agreements have been proliferating in all directions.
It would be most useful to establish an EU/UK…