Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg has warned Britain that it may have lost trade negotiation skills due to being an EU member for nearly four decades.
Currently, trade deals are negotiated on behalf of EU member states by the EU Commission. The so called, single market.
She said to Reuters, “We do feel that sometimes when we are discussing with Britain, that their speed is limited by the fact that it is such a long time since they have negotiated.”
She added, “I fear a very hard Brexit, but I hope we will find a better solution.”
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Yesterday, Brexit plans were rocked when Sir Ivan Rogers surprised everyone by stepping down from his post as EU Ambassador. He accused the British government of “muddled thinking” over Brexit, and called on his civil servants not to accept “ill-founded arguments” from Brexit negotiators.
He wrote, “Serious multilateral negotiating experience is in short supply in Whitehall, and that is not the case in the [European] commission or in the council,” he wrote.
“Contrary to the beliefs of some, free trade does not just happen … Increasing market access to other markets and consumer choice in our own, depends on the deals, multilateral, plurilateral and bilateral, that we strike.”
This was compounded by Jonathan Marland, a former trade envoy. He said, “My fear is that Whitehall as a whole has really not got the skill set to deliver a really hard-nosed negotiation. And I think we have really got to up-skill in that area to do it.”
Current thinking is that Article 50 will be triggered in March.
Norway is not part of the EU but it contributes to the bloc budget in exchange for access to the single market. It also accepts some EU stipulations such as free movement of people.
It is believed that some in government feel a Norway-style arrangement would suit the UK.