Oslo – The Brexit debate is followed closely in Norway. The EU referendum in 1994 split the country in half and activated one of the most potent political divisions in our society. Our country has a strong electoral base that cherishes values like small scale democracy and traditionalism. This section of society also wishes to protect the primary sector of the economy, which is their main source of income and settlement. Because of high costs, the primary sector of Norway would not have been able to compete and survive in an open and common European market.
When Norway voted ‘no’ in 1994, we got the EEA agreement instead. Both EU supporters and opponents agree that the agreement has major flaws, and acts almost like EU membership without the right to decide on major issues. The ‘Norwegian example’ has received considerable attention in the British Brexit debate, to the point where our domestic politicians have contributed op-ed pieces to major British newspapers. Whatever Britain chooses, they should learn from our mistakes and avoid a fundamentally flawed half-membership with Europe.
I hope Britain votes ‘remain’, in spite of the EU project’s obvious shortcomings. We are the first generation to live in a Europe not at war with itself. The feat is astonishing, but we must not take it for granted. Peace and common goals across the nations do not come free of charge. We live in a time where the challenges facing us – like tackling climate change, eradicating global poverty and establishing lasting world peace – need to be solved through unprecedented international cooperation. Our answer to these challenges must be more integration, not more isolation.