One of the most common countries thrown around a lot in discussions on what new model Britain should adopt, should the June referendum result in a ‘yes’, is the thriving country of Norway. Not just known for the vikings, the Norwegian nation is one of the richest countries in the world, enjoys free trade with the rest of Europe, and receives tourists from all over the world that come to enjoy its year-round ski resorts or witness breathtaking fjords and the northern lights in the winter. In the past, Norway has held two referendums (‘72 and ‘94) on whether to join the ‘common market’, both ending in marginal victories with a resounding ‘NO’. According to Rune Bjåstad, the Minister Counselor for Culture and Communication at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Paris, “the arguments for saying ‘no’ were that membership was a threat to the sovereignty of Norway, the fishing industries and agriculture would suffer, that membership would result in increased centralization, and there would be less favorable conditions for equality and the welfare state.”; understandable for one of the happiest countries in the world.
Norway has a history of servitude, first under the Danish Kingdom for several centuries and finally gaining independence in 1905 after 90 years of Swedish rule, which has made Norwegians weary of giving up their sovereignty to a third party. Norway was one of the founding members of the European Free Trade Area (NFTA) which later made negotiations with the EU to form the European Economic Area (EEA), which established free trade rules between the NFTA members and the member states of the EU. This means Norway ends up conducting most of its trade with the EU and has become its biggest supporter, such as with EEA grants. Keep in mind that Norway has zero representation in the EU, so it has to get involved early in the process to have any influence, such as with recent negotiations on fishing quotas; fishing being the largest industry in the country, next to oil. Even before the discovery of the oil shelf, fishing was the country’s largest export. Currently, Norwegians are happy with their political system, which is characterized by a short socio-economic distance between the government and the governed, which means the people are represented in local and external affairs. Some may call it “Socialism”, but semantics doesn’t change the fact that the people of Norway are very happy with their way of life. Majority of people who voted ‘yes’ in the ‘72 referendum came from the northern region, who value preserving their natural landscapes, keep things decentralized, and have food safety and self-stability. Norway is certainly a unique case, and one that Britain shouldn’t emulate or look towards for a Brexit.