While most Norwegian government ministers were hoping Britain remains in the EU, those leading Norway’s Nei til EU (No to the EU) movement were cheering on British voters who want to leave the union. “Drop the EU, you’ll love it!” exclaimed Liv Signe Navarsete, the former leader of Norway’s pro-farmer and firmly anti-EU Center Party.
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg was warning British voters on Thursday that they “won’t like” having to accept EU rules without being able to influence them as a full member. Navarsete was promoting just the opposite. She and the current leader of Nei til EU, Kathrine Kleveland, are among those solidly in favour of a so-called “Brexit” (British exit).
Navarsete, who remains a Member of Parliament in Norway, used social media this week to reach out to British voters, urging them to overlook the “scaremongers” of an EU withdrawal. Navarsete claimed there also were “a lot of fear and rhetorical tactics used by the pro-EU elite” when Norway faced its own second referendum on EU membership in 1994. She claimed such tactics “turned out to be completely false.”
Borrowing the tactics of the controversial US presidential candidate Donald Trump, Navarsete dwelled on the idea of a powerful “elite” and promoted a sort of “us versus them” mentality. “The struggle to keep Norway outside the European Union was a struggle against a united elite,” Navarsete wrote. “The biggest political parties, the largest companies and the national media were all in favour of a Norwegian membership of (sic) the European Union.”
She stressed how Norway, after staying out of the EU, “has been rated as one of the best countries to live in for many years,” not mentioning that Norway’s prosperity is largely linked to its oil wealth that’s now declining along with the dive in oil prices. Nor did Narvarsete mention the fact that Norway has had to abide by EU rules to retain access to the EU’s inner market, without having any say in how EU rules are formed. Solberg, in her counter arguments, has said she fears Norwegians have forgotten how important EU market access is, and how closely linked it is to Norwegians’ prosperity.
Kleveland, the current leader of Norway’s anti-EU movement that also wants to scrap Norway’s agreement with the EU, claimed “Brexit” can give both the British and the Norwegians “new opportunities.” She also stressed in a press release this week how Norway has remained prosperous outside the EU.
“If Great Britain leaves the EU, the British will of course also get a new trade agreement with the EU,” stated Kleveland. “It can yield new opportunities for a new debate (on Norway’s agreement, called the EØS).” Even though the EØS agreement is better than EU membership, I wouldn’t recommend it and hope the British can get something better.”
Kleveland, who flew to London to more closely follow results of Thursday’s referendum, said that after a British exit, Great Britain will probably negotiate and enter into one or more trade and economic cooperation agreement with the EU. Britain may also rejoin the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), of which Norway is a member, and strengthen it. With Great Britain itself one of Norway’s most important trading partners, Kleveland suggested both EFTA’s and Norway’s agreements with the EU could be renegotiated.
Norwegian attorney and political activist Fredrik S Heffermehl seemed to agree, rejecting the “crisis predictions” put forward earlier this week by several leading Norwegian economists and financial analysts. “Help stop the corporate and super-rich from taking over the world,” Heffermehl wrote on Facebook. “Norwegians said ‘no’ (to the EU) and it served us well.” He also pointed to Norway’s “flourishing” economy over the past 20 years.
Other Members of Parliament remained skeptical of a British withdrawal from the EU. Sveinung Rotevatn of the Liberal Party, for example, told state broacdaster NRK that he was not at all impressed with Navarsete’s message.
“There are three politicians who are cheering for a Brexit outside of Great Britain,” Rotevatn told NRK. “They are (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, Donald Trump and clearly Liv Signe Navarsete.” She called Rotevatn’s comparison of her position with that of Putin and Trump “ridiculous.”