Norwegian minister claims single market membership outside of EU is 'win win' arrangement
However, he suggested the remaining in the single market after Brexit would be beneficial for the UK after he claimed it “served our country well” with 70 per cent of it exports going to the EU.
Mr Brende said the economic benefits outweighed being subject to EU directives and having to pay for new EU members.
“We are willing to contribute to the European Union, especially with new member countries that became a part of the EU in the 90s,” said Mr Brende. “These are countries that need also investment and we were happy to do so.
“I think this arrangement is a win win. Formally, you’re right, that on the directives we have no formal say – that is part of the price that we are paying and we also have implemented all the four freedoms.”
He said there was a “consensus” in Norway that single market membership had grown its economy despite not having a say on EU regulations.
The politician said: “We were very clear that there’s no silver bullet in this context because being part of the single market, as we are – although it means we have to implement all the directives – we are not in the room when these are decided on.
“But this has been [the] consensus in Norway, that it’s in our interest to be a part of the single market and that is what we have to contribute to it.
“We also fund countries who are in the EU that are the new members but also those that are facing the biggest challenges when it comes to development.”
The comments come as Mr Brende is due to meet with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Brexit Secretary David Davis, and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox to “look at how we can secure a close relationship between the UK and Norway, moving forward”.
The meeting comes after he rejected reports that Norway did not want the UK to join the European Free Trade Association (Efta), which currently provides four countries access to the single market.
“If Britain chose to go through an EEA [European Economic Area] agreement, being a full member of the single market, taking all the directives, contributing to the EU, we have to assess such an interest,” said Mr Brende. ”But so far, I think, your Prime Minister, Theresa May, has said you’re working along different lines.”