Thursday, 12 July 2012

Should the UK leave the EU and do a Norway?

Norwegian oil field

There is a growing call for a referendum on whether the UK remains an integral part of the European Union, or leave but remain part of the European Economic Area (the YES/NO question). In a recent article in The Telegraph Harriet Alexander reported that Last week, writing in The Sunday Telegraph, David Cameron raised the possibility of a referendum on Britain's membership. And Norway is often cited as a perfect example of how to leave the EU, yet still thrive.

Also "People worry that if Britain left we would lose access to the Single Market and not be able to travel freely," said Robert Oulds, director of the Bruges Group think tank. “But that is not the case. Britain can cancel its membership of the EU and retain the trade benefits, following Norway’s example. The only thing we will lose is the bureaucracy and expense."

But is Norway a perfect example for the UK to follow? - for a start take it's population of around 4.7 million which is more akin to the population of  Scotland.

The following is from the CIA World Factbook (my emphasis):

The Norwegian economy is a prosperous mixed economy, with a vibrant private sector, a large state sector and an extensive social safety net. The government controls key areas, such as the vital petroleum sector, through extensive regulation and large-scale state-majority-owned enterprises. The country is richly endowed with natural resources - petroleum, hydropower, fish, forests, and minerals - and is highly dependent on the petroleum sector, which accounts for the largest portion of export revenue and about 20% of government revenue. Norway is the world's second-largest gas exporter; and seventh largest oil exporter, making one of its largest offshore oil finds in 2011. Norway opted to stay out of the EU during a referendum in November 1994; nonetheless, as a member of the European Economic Area, it contributes sizably to the EU budget. In anticipation of eventual declines in oil and gas production, Norway saves state revenue from the petroleum sector in the world's second largest sovereign wealth fund, valued at over $500 billion in 2011 and uses the fund's return to help finance public expenses. After solid GDP growth in 2004-07, the economy slowed in 2008, and contracted in 2009, before returning to positive growth in 2010-11, however, the government budget is set to remain in surplus.

It has around 5.7 billion gallons of oil in proven reserves compared to UK of around 2.9 billion. And it has has around 2 trillion cubic meters of gas in proven reserves, compared to 256 billion in the UK.

Norway has prospered well, by careful management of its natural resources. Robert Oulds said above "The only thing we will lose is the bureaucracy and expense." but Norway still contributes sizably to the EU budget and the government controls key areas, such as the vital petroleum sector, through extensive regulation and large-scale state-majority-owned enterprises.

Possibly not what the neoliberals and free-marketers of the right had in mind exactly.

No I don't think the UK could use Norway as an example to follow, although it could be a model for Scotland? - after all Scotland with a population of around 5 million and some oil left, with it's close links to Norway through the oil industry, are already practically neighbours.


kp said...

Entirely agree with your analysis! But I very much doubt the Scots want to hear anything about making large contributions to the EU budget, I suspect they hope for handouts in the other direction.

Either way, the Tory party is in its usual mess over Europe and it is time it sorted this mess out once and for all!

The Red Flag said...

Norway adheres to all the EUs regulations anyway so that it can gain access to the market as a 'special' partner. If they didn't, they would have major trading problems. Norway incorporates all of them and follows Brussels closer than we do because we have our 'opt-out' in certain areas.

That kind of blows holes in UKIP because all they can offer is a position like Norway or we lose our trading status. ie althugh we would be out, we would still follow all the EU's rulings. In fact more than we follow now.

Norway also has a social welfare system that puts ours to shame.