Brexit: Sandell hits out at 'disgraceful' lack of Norway deal
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The country goes to the polls today with its relationship with the European Union one of the main talking points, alongside the future of oil and climate change. More than four million voters will be eligible to go to the ballot box this morning, with the latest polls showing the ruling pro-European conservative government hemorrhaging support. A left-green coalition is expected to emerge victorious, with any leadership pact expected to rely on the support of eurosceptic parties.
The Centre Party, the Socialist Left and the Red Party are all vying to prop up any Labour-led coalition.
The three parties have all been upfront about their thoughts on Brussels, and have each called for a rethink of Norway’s relationship with the EU.
Norwegian eurosceptics are hoping to make a move for their own “mini-Brexit”.
Experts are now predicting Oslo’s relationship with the bloc could suffer as a result of the growing possibility they will be able to influence a future government.
Centre Party leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum said: “The problem with the agreement we have today is that we gradually transfer more and more power from the Storting, from Norwegian lawmakers to the bureaucrats in Brussels who are not accountable.”
While Norway isn’t a member of the EU, it has close links to the bloc via its own European Economic Area Agreement.
The pact provides the Scandinavian country access to the EU’s single market in exchange for the adoption of the bloc’s rules – including the free movements of people, workers and tariff-free trading.
Norwegians have previously rejected EU membership twice, in referendums in 1972 and 1994.
Despite this, a majority of voters are in favour of the current EEA arrangements.
Ulf Sverdrup, director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, said: “In Norway, we saw that the EU is a very tough negotiating partner and even a bid country like Britain did not manage to win very much in its negotiations.”
Labour leader Jonas Gahr Store is likely going to be tasked with forming a government, potentially made up of the Centre Party and the Socialist Left.
Both have called for a current end to Norway’s relationship with the EU.
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The Centre Party has been pushing for Oslo to cut its payments to the Brussels’ cash coffers.
Norway coughed up some £2.3 billion to the EU between 2014-2021.
Mr Store, a close ally of Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, is expected to speak out in favour of the preservation of ties with Brussels.
In a recent debate, he said: “If I go to my wife and say ‘Look, we’ve been married for years and things are pretty good, but now I want to look around to see if there are any other options out there’… Nobody is going to pick up the phone and will be willing to renegotiate terms.”
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Mr Sverdrup has suggested that Norway could instead increase its cooperation with Brussels, on issues like climate change.
He said: “Cooperation with the EU will very likely become stronger because of the climate issue.”
He added that this could trigger “friction” within the next ruling coalition in Oslo.
“Even though the past 25 years have been a period of increasingly close cooperation, and though we can therefore expect that it will probably continue, there are still question marks,” he said.
A European Commission spokesman said the EEA agreement is “fundamental” for relations between the EU, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
He added: “We do not speculate on possible election outcomes nor do we comment on different party positions.”
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