Norway’s government ministers in charge of business, trade, fisheries and EU issues drew a large crowd on Wednesday when they invited Norwegian companies to a briefing on the consequences of Britain’s decision to leave the EU. They stressed that they want Britain to remain Norway’s most important trading partner, also after the so-called “Brexit.”
The goal of the meeting, which attracted representatives from a wide range of Norwegian business, was to share the status of the Brexit process and ask for input from the business leaders as new trade deals must be negotiated.
The Brexit briefing packed a government auditorium and was welcomed by the business community. Tore Myhre of Norway’s national employers’ organization NHO said he was glad the government took the initiative for the meeting.
“It’s important that we get an opportunity to participate,” Myhre told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). “Brexit will affect many companies and industries in the future.” He noted there was a lot of uncertainty especially within the oil and gas sector and the finance industry. “We want to make sure the government studies the consequences and stays in close contact with officials in Great Britain,” Myhre added.
EU Minister Elisabeth Vik Aspaker claimed they would, and that work was already well underway on analyzing the effects of Brexit and how Norway and Britain can continue to cooperate on trade issues. “Even though it will be a long time before Britain leaves the EU, we want to be as well-prepared as possible to take care of Norwegian interests and our good cooperation with Great Britain,” Aspaker said.
She said that a high-level inter-governmental working group was set up as soon as Brexit was approved by voters, before the summer holidays. The groups is led by the Foreign Ministry and will closely follow withdrawal negotiations between the EU and Britain and chart where and how they will affect Norwegian interests. All the government ministries have representatives in the group.
Aspaker also plans to meet her British counterpart “as soon as possible” to firm up bilateral ties. Britain’s own negotiations with the EU aren’t likely to begin until January at the earliest, Aspaker said. “During this period, one of the most important things we can do is avoid time generating more uncertainty around the framework of business deals, as that can be a burden for companies,” she said. “At the same time we need to use this time to find good solutions that will ensure ongoing cooperation with Europe.”