Saturday, 5 January 2013

EU Law And Norway

It's been rather revealing that online comments made by myself, and others, on MSM sites in recent days regarding the Norway model has prompted copious numbers of vigorous and often detailed, albeit incorrect, strawmen rebuttals in response. While the Norway model is by no means perfect, and hopefully only a temporary solution to help negate the inevitable 'economic disaster' arguments in a referendum, that it has struck such a nerve indicates the option has merit, at least in the short term.

Sadly though as, Witterings From Witney points out, so-called experts such as the Adam Smith Institute still remain resolutely of the opinion that EEA/EFTA members; Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland have no say over EU law:
The EU Federalists have already written the script for the UK’s new relationship as an “associate member”.  We will be subject to all the regulations and costs of EU membership without any influence or voting rights.  That is roughly the deal Norway currently has.
Which is completely a country mile. Such assertions go against the Norwegian Government, the Norwegian Parliament, the Unions in Norway, the Norwegian Postal Service, Iceland (page 15):
On few occasions EEA directives have however been disputed to the extent that it has spurred a general political debate over the possible veto right, among them were the directive on electricity providers, the one on sewers, and most recently, the service directive.
And even Liechtenstein, who on their website, link to this short EEA Factsheet which says:
In the joint bodies, which are responsible for the preparation of decisions, decision-making and despite resolution, each EEA/EFTA State has one vote. The EU states speak with a single voice in these bodies. Since the decisions are reached unanimously, each EEA/EFTA State on its own and the EU States jointly have a veto.
That to argue being a member without any influence or voting rights is to effectively accuse three whole countries of being entirely wrong, not withstanding EFTA itself.

Crucially though the significance of a veto takes on more potency when we look at secondary EU legislation. Here EU law is made up of Regulations, Directives, Decisions and non-binding Recommendations and Opinions. The most common are Directives and Regulations. Directives according to the EU:
...lay down certain end results that must be achieved in every Member State. National authorities have to adapt their laws to meet these goals, but are free to decide how to do so. Directives may concern one or more Member States, or all of them.
Not only do they not always apply to every member state but there is a degree of flexibility on how it is to be implemented domestically. Unfortunately in practice rather than take the minimum option, a number of countries, including the UK adopt a gold plating strategy. And Norway is no exception:
...the changes in the Norwegian legislation go beyond what the [European Agency Workers] Directive requires.
But that is an issue for individual countries and their pro-EU parliaments, which means that any kind of 'influence' in the EU doesn't stop member states gleefully adding to laws that apparently they were trying to water down within the EU.

Then there are EU Regulations which are (my emphasis)...
...the most direct form of EU law - as soon as they are passed, they have binding legal force throughout every Member State, on a par with national laws. National governments do not have to take action themselves to implement EU regulations.

They are different from directives, which are addressed to national authorities, who must then take action to make them part of national law, and decisions, which apply in specific cases only, involving particular authorities or individuals.

Regulations are passed either jointly by the EU Council and European Parliament, and by the Commission alone.
Regulations therefore completely bypass a country's elected Parliament, in the EU's words; "This Regulation shall be binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States".

However while we have but no choice to accept EU Regulations that don't even come anywhere near Parliament, being a member of the EEA means we can give back power to Parliament the choice to veto. As an example here is below page 3 of the Draft Joint Committee Decisions under consideration by EEAS and EFTA, dated Monday 17 December 2012 (click to enlarge):

Four EU Regulations, two of which have an EU compliance date of 2007, are still under consideration in December 2012.

Aside from the veto there is also influence, confirmed by just a cursory look at the EFTA website:
...the EEA EFTA States can participate in shaping a decision at the early stages of preparing a legislative proposal. The EEA Agreement provides for input from the EEA EFTA side at various stages of the preparation of EEA-relevant legislation:
Which can take the form of:
- First, representatives of the EEA EFTA States have the right to participate in expert groups and committees of the European Commission. They participate extensively in the preparatory work of the Commission and should be consulted in the same manner as EU experts. The Commission may seek advice from the EEA EFTA experts by phone or by correspondence, or in meetings. The experts may also be associated with the preparatory work through regular committee meetings.
- Second, the EEA EFTA States have the right to submit EEA EFTA comments on upcoming legislation
Examples of comments by EEA EFTA on upcoming legislation can be found here, going back to 2001:
One of the ways in which the EEA EFTA States participate in shaping EC legislation, i.e. when the Commission is drawing up legislative proposals, is by submitting comments on important policy issues.
The comments are elaborated by working groups, cleared by the relevant subcommittees, endorsed by the Standing Committee and officially noted by the Joint Committee after they have been sent to the relevant services in the Commission and the European Parliament. 
So it's clear, that while the Norway model is not perfect, that it has no "influence or voting rights" is high deception on stilts. That the likes of the Adam Smith Institute can regurgitate such arguments when a simple and quick look on the internet proves the fallacy of their position begs one to ask what is the point of them?


  1. Damn good article TBF (as always) and thanks for the link.

  2. Thanks WfW for your kind comments, and a pleasure as always. Hard to keep up with all these 'prestigious institutions' talking bunkum

  3. Good post. Why don't these people read your blog, Richard North and WfW? If I can find them, surely they can.

  4. Excellent piece TBF, however, I think it was a Marketing guru Tim Ambler who was writing as a guest on the Adam Smith Institute, website.

    If it had been Pirie or Butler I would have been very surprised.

    Since they seem to have a very good grasp of the markets and how politicians are no more than an obstruction to the free market.