OSLO (Reuters) – Norway should not try to renegotiate the terms of its membership of the European single market as some opposition parties argue, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Wednesday, citing Britain’s difficulties in negotiating its departure from the bloc.
With little more than two weeks left until Britain fully quits the world’s largest trade bloc, London and Brussels are still locked in difficult talks on their future relationship.
Solberg said Norway, a country of 5.4 million people, would be unlikely to get better terms than its current deal if it followed a similar path.
“Is it credible that little Norway will get a better deal with the EU than big Britain can? I don’t think so,” Solberg, who faces an election in nine months, told a news conference.
“We are going to see even more clearly how complicated it is to leave the European economic community. Parties who say it is defensible to leave the European single market because we can negotiate a new, better deal should look at the terms,” she said.
“Britain has not yet succeeded in negotiating a deal with the European Union.”
The Centre Party has become the biggest political force in the Nordic country, a poll released earlier this month showed, channelling the anger of farmers and rural Norwegians who say their concerns are not being heard in Oslo, in an echo of trends seen elsewhere in Europe and North America.
It opposes Norway ever joining the European Union and wants to replace its single market affiliation, which gives wide access for its goods and services in return for following EU rules, with a set of traditional trade agreements and more national autonomy.
Norway, which twice rejected joining what is now the EU, in 1972 and 1994, is currently ruled by a minority coalition led by Solberg and her pro-EU Conservative Party.
But a coalition of Labour, Centre and the left-wing Socialist Party are leading in polls ahead of a parliamentary election due on Sept. 13, 2021.
While the Centre and the Socialist Left parties want Norway to leave the European single market, Labour is opposed to it. A majority of Norwegians polled in recent surveys support the oil-rich nation’s membership of the single market.
(Reporting by Gwladys Fouche; Editing by Alex Richardson)