- REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
David Cameron is coming out swinging against the high-profile campaign to get Britain to leave the European Union.
The British Prime Minister is making a speech at the Northern Future Forum in Reykjavik on Wednesday and is expected to use it to argue against Britain trying to take the ‘Norwegian option’ – leaving the EU but remaining in the European Economic Area.
The ‘Norwegian option’ is so-called because Norway is not an EU member state, but still maintains close ties with the union.
According to the Guardian, Cameron will use his speech on Wednesday to directly address the “leave” campaign calling for a Brexit (British exit of Europe) by asking five specific questions about what would happen in practice. The questions are expected to be:
Would the UK be required to follow EU rules, despite not getting a vote on them being drawn up? Would Britain still have to follow EU free movement rules? Would the UK still have to pay an EU subscription fee? Would Britain’s existing trade deals still apply? Would all EU members agree with Britain’s new relationship?
David Cameron promised an in/out referendum on Europe by 2017 as part of the election earlier this year, faced at the time with rising support for anti-EU party UKIP.
Cameron and the Conservative Party are pro-EU, but are facing growing pressure from the campaign calling for a Brexit. A new campaign group, Vote Leave, launched at the start of the month with support from Tory, Labour, Green, and UKIP politicians, as well as top political donors.
Norway is often used by eurosceptics and “Leave” campaigners as an example of how countries can prosper outside the EU and still maintain a strong relationship with the Union. The country has a strong welfare state, low crime levels, and is often touted as one of the world’s best places to live.
But the Prime Minister is likely to argue that being part of the European Economic Area (like Norway and Iceland), but not the EU, will see Britain face the same problems it currently has with the EU, with few of the perks.
Earlier this year, Open Europe – the think-tank which argues for major reforms in the EU – reported that choosing the Norwegian option would still cost the UK around 94% of what it currently pays to the EU, whilst robbing it of benefits like votes on EU laws.
Downing Street sources have been quoted by various media organisations, talking about Cameron’s plans to question the benefits of leaving the EU and taking up something along the lines of the ‘Norwegian option’.
“It is not necessarily a land of milk and honey” The Telegraph quotes a sources as saying, adding that “People need to understand there are significant downsides.”
“Unlike the UK, Norway has no veto in the European Council, no votes in the EU’s council of ministers, no MEPs or votes in the European Parliament, and no European commissioner to help,”
Despite Cameron’s current eagerness to urge the UK to stay in the EU, a source in Downing Street also told the Guardian that he has not conclusively ruled out backing the “Leave” campaign.
“The prime minister’s plan is to renegotiate the terms of the UK’s relationship with the EU – with the aim of staying in a reformed EU. But he rules nothing out if that negotiation is not successful,” the source said.