Tony Connelly’s Brexit Republic podcast looked at the Norway+ option last week. In a radical move, rather than interviewing various heads of the Tory Party Medusa, and allowing it to argue with itself, he had spoken to Norway’s representative to EFTA. Has anybody else even thought of asking them what they would think?
Turns out, they have quite a lot of thoughts on the matter. And they are not sure they want the UK barging into their little club-on-the-edge-of-a-club. For a start, the UK would be the big beast in the room, making Norway and co. hostages to UK-EU tensions. And, because EFTA operates collectively, any member can veto a new agreement between EFTA-EU. Who would welcome eurosceptics on those terms?
They also discussed how Lichtenstein exercised its right to opt out of free movement of people using an arcane clause in the EFTA-EU treaty. The implication was that Lichtenstein had a reasonable case that free movement would cause disproportionate social and economic effects on its tiny state, but that the UK would be hard-pressed to make the same case. Some of the Norway+ champions reckon they can have the good bits of Norway, a bit of the Lichtenstein opt-out, with a slice of Swiss independence to make free trade deals with the rest of the world.
Also, an interesting footnote: the EU is reviewing its relationships with the Swiss so will want to seem rigid and tough in its negotiations with the UK i.e. they are extra reluctant to reopen the deal when it fails next week.
Bottom line: the UK has been rubbish at understanding the other side of the table because its own side has been such a mess. **