Carwyn looks to Norway for inspiration on Brexit compromise
First Minister Carwyn Jones has said the United Kingdom should look to Norway for inspiration for how it can compromise in Brexit talks to secure continued access to the EU’s single market.
This week Mr Jones visited Norway – which is not a member of the EU but is part of the single market – and said the country’s model offered an alternative to “unlimited” freedom of movement.
The Welsh Labour leader said it was not possible to have access to the single market and maintain “full control over immigration” but suggested a “reasonable compromise” could be reached
Speaking shortly before he left Norway, he said: “I think it’s important as we look for the right model for the UK as it leaves the EU that we look at the experience of other countries. There’s much to learn here in Norway – not quite the exact fit for Wales because agriculture and fisheries are subject to tariffs when Norway exports to the EU.
“They do however have a system of freedom of movement which I think is worth examining [where] it’s not unlimited freedom of movement but it’s freedom of movement to a job. So one has a job with some flexibility around that which I think would be a reasonable compromise as far as the UK is concerned.”
Norway does not offer the “exact model” that he would advocate for the UK when it leaves the EU but he stressed the need to prevent blocks to Welsh exports.
He said: “What’s absolutely essential is that we have access to the single market so Welsh businesses can sell in the same way they do now. You can’t have that and full control over immigration.”
His comments come after days of Whitehall convulsions which saw the Government’s top representative in Brussels quit to be replaced by Sir Tim Barrow.
He said: “I don’t know him but I know that he met with [former Economy Minister Edwina Hart] some years ago. He’s visited Cardiff; he’s somebody who made a very positive impression on both Edwina and indeed our officials and we look forward to meeting with him soon.”
The First Minister warned against the politicisation of the civil service
He said: “The hard Brexiters are particularly intolerant, I think. If you don’t agree with them they shout at the tops of their voices; they don’t offer a reasonable and reasoned argument. Now, if you have a politicised civil service that will mean that civil servants are afraid to give ministers advice…
“Now, I’ve been a minister for nearly 17 years… I can say [what’s] important to me is that I have people giving me advice who’ll [give] it to me unvarnished.
“The last thing I want is people to tell me what I want to hear. I need to be able to consider all the evidence, even if it’s difficult, before taking a decision. Otherwise more people will take the wrong decisions.”
Transitional arrangements are needed to protect Wales
Formal Brexit talks are due to be triggered by the end of March but Mr Jones said there was no chance of a final trade deal being struck during the two year process of talks laid out in the Lisbon Treaty.
Arguing that transitional arrangements must be secured that work for Wales, he said: “The reality is that once Article 50 is triggered it will be many months before anything happens because the French and German elections will take precedence…
“Now, it is absolutely impossible to negotiate a deal within two years. I’ve spoken to people who’ve been involved in negotiating trade deals and they say, well, it takes six or seven years…
“So we do have to start thinking about what will be the transitional arrangements to stop Wales and the UK falling off the edge of a cliff [and] seeing tariffs imposed under the World Trade Organisation rules.
“Nobody wants that but these are uncharted waters; we need to make sure the UK Government is absolutely clear about what it wants to see.”
Norwegians are worried about Brexit
Describing Norwegian concerns about Brexit, he said: “They are worried about the UK leaving the EU even though they are not members because they see the UK as a kindred spirit… and they are worried about the UK becoming isolationist. That’s a great worry for them.”
He warned: “We can’t cut ourselves off from the rest of the world…
“My worry about some of the hard Brexiters is they seem to think this is the 19th century and the world will fall at Britain’s feet. It won’t do that.”
UK Government online guidance on residence in Norway states: “British Nationals are free to enter Norway for up to six months to look for work or set up a business. If you do not manage to establish yourself within the six month period, but are still financially stable, you may be able to remain in Norway.”
The Tories say Wales should make the most of the ‘Trump factor’
Russell George, the Welsh Conservatives’ economy spokesman, called for a Brexit trade plan to take advantage of “Trump factor”.
(Photo: AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Arguing that Wales’ reliance on the EU as an export market has increased, he said: “This isn’t about cutting trade with Europe, but we do need to ensure that the Welsh economy is as robust and outward-looking as possible as we enter the new era of free trade.
“Let’s take advantage of the ‘Trump factor’, and embrace this historic opportunity to get to the front of the queue for a trade deal with a new president who has indicated his willingness to do business with the UK.
“It’s clear that the Labour Government’s approach is failing, and the over-reliance of the Welsh economy on exports to the EU is becoming a significant problem at just the time that we have an opportunity to broaden the markets to whom we export…
“2017 is an opportunity to develop a new economic strategy, and that must include a plan to capitalise on the opportunities of Brexit by boosting trade with the rest of the world.”