MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The Norwegian Labour Party is ready to share Oslo’s experience in dealing with the European Union as a non-member country with its sister party in the United Kingdom at the annual UK Labour Party conference on September 25-28, international secretary of the Norwegian Labour Odd-Inge Kvalheim told Sputnik on Monday.
“The Norwegian Labour Party has, along with many other European and international sister parties, been invited to attend the Congress of the UK Labour Party. We are looking forward to listening to the active debates at this Congress, and if of interest – share our views and experiences with regards to Norway`s cooperation with the EU,” she said.
The British Labour Party conference, which will take place in Liverpool and is expected to be attended by 10,000 people, will be mainly devoted to the future of the UK relations with the European Union following its decision to leave the bloc during the June 23 referendum.
Following the Brexit vote, many in the United Kingdom raised concerns about London losing access to the EU market upon the country’s official withdrawal from the bloc, claiming the country should keep access to the EU tariff-free single market by following in Norway’s footsteps and joining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). This organization unites non-EU members Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, and Britain needs these countries’ approval to become the fifth member.
Kvalheim noticed that the plans regarding London’s relations with Brussels and possible alternative institutional arrangements were at a very early stage as Britain had not yet invoked Article 50, which triggers the process of leaving the European Union.
“The Norwegian Labour Party will follow the talks between the UK and EU closely, as well as the decisions both will take regarding new arrangements; and base our positions on these. This includes a possible application from the UK to join EFTA,” she said, adding that Norwegian Labour main concern was “to maintain the close political and economic relations Norway has both to the EU and to the UK.”
Last week, Norwegian European Affairs Minister Elisabeth Vik Aspaker said it was not definitely in Oslo’s interest if Britain joined the EFTA, with concerns running high it would force four members to renegotiate numerous trade deals once the United Kingdom becomes a new member.
Britain was a founding member of the EFTA in 1960. In 1973, Britain joined the European Economic Community and eventually become an EU member.