ELLEN ENGELSTAD – A Norwegian view: are things really so bad outside the EU?

In Norway it’s the elites that wants to join the European Union, while a popular union of farmers, fishermen, workers and urban leftists won the referendum in 1994 that kept the country out. It’s not difficult to spot why.When the British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the Norwegian newspaper Klassekampen that ‘Outside the EU we would have no say, this is something Norway has experienced’, an answer from the Norwegian Labour Party deputy leader Trond Giske came quickly. Talking to the newspaper Nationen Mr Giske replied to Corbyn: “I don’t think ‘it can be as bad as Norway’ really works to scare people off. Norway is regularly announced the world’s best country to live in. We have had the lowest level of unemployment in Europe throughout the financial crisis. We have one of the strongest welfare systems, the least inequality, the highest safety and the most trust, in addition to peace and wealth. I mean: How bad can it get? What does Corbyn fear?”

Seen from Norway, this is a key question. Two times have we said no to EU-membership in a popular vote, in 1972 and 1994, and after each time the sun has just kept on shining even more on our glistening fjords. Now I know what you all are thinking: the reason is oil and luck. Surely that is a big part of the explanation for Norway’s financial success. But it is more than oil alone that makes a large majority of our population prosper, beyond our local elite of one per centers. If oil were the only answer, the people of Angola would also enjoy a general high standard of living. And if Britain taxed its 1% population like Norway taxes our oil companies, maybe Britain´s middle classes could enjoy a welfare state and living standards at the level of Norway?

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