Saturday 15 December 2012

Government By Fax? Norway Has A Veto

Cameron: "I think it is worth understanding what leaving would involve – there is the Norway option. You can be like Norway – and you can have full access to the single market but you have absolutely no say over the rules of that market. In Norway they sometimes call it ‘Government by fax’ because you are simply taking the instructions about every rule in the single market from Brussels without any say on what those rules are."
It was Witterings from Witney that alerted me via email to this Newsnight programme on Wednesday (copy going on youtube later today) in particular this comment (32:12) from Helle Hagenau, who worked as Secretary General in Norway's No to EU in 2001:
“No, we are not governed by fax because the European agreement, the single market agreement, that has a clause when we can veto a directive if we don’t like it; and we have done that.”
In one simple sentence one of the long running and best known EU arguments for remaining members has been nailed for the lie that it is, yet the comment, dynamite as it is, seems hitherto have passed by unnoticed by a large number of euroscpetics.

Witterings has the details which is worth reading in full, the key one is this from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (6.1.4) - the right of veto:
“According to the principle of unanimity applied in the EEA Joint Committee, all the EFTA states must agree in order for new EU legislation to be integrated into the EEA Agreement and for it to apply to cooperation between the EFTA states and the EU. If one EFTA state opposes integration, this also affects the other EFTA states in that the rules will not apply to them either, neither in the individual states nor between the EFTA states themselves nor in their relations with the EU. This possibility that each EFTA state has to object to new rules that lie within the scope of the EEA Agreement becoming applicable to the EFTA pillar is often referred to as these parties’ right of veto.”
In short if Norway doesn't like the fax it receives it can simply file it in the bin. Cameron has been exposed as a liar, and his key argument against a 'Norway solution' has been comprehensively holed below the waterline.

"Government by fax" is a wholly inaccurate yet powerful soundbite, but now we have powerful soundbite in response - "that's a lie, Norway has a veto".

The importance of this cannot be overstated.

Edit: I've uploaded the relevant clip here:


  1. This was always bollocks TBF, just the usual incoherent lefty ramblings.

    If I want to sell something to you, it has to be attractive to you... If we deal, you must walk away feeling that you are in a better place, and so must I.

    If in the place that I want to do business the government does not allow (say) banks to charge interest, but rather take a fixed fee for a service rendered, then I must follow their rules, this is not being governed by fax, it is being accommodating enough to enable trade.

  2. @right_writes Absolutely I agree...the argument is easily dismissed by facts and logic as you quite rightly point out.

    Trouble is in politics it's governed by soundbites...rather than the facts. Now we have an effective one in response...and we all know how Cameron likes his vetos :-)

  3. There's also the Richard North argument that many EU directives are just EU implementations of regulations agreed by international bodies. Norway has representation in these bodies, but EU countries don't because the EU is their collective voice. So we really don't have much of a say now.

    Part of the problem with the 'having a voice in the EU' argument is that it's hard to see where it's ever made a difference, therefore it's difficult to argue for the tragedy of losing it.

    The debate takes place at an amazingly superficial level, and the idea that we will be reduced to the state of Norway or Switzerland already predisposes people to dismiss it.

  4. @cosmic Indeed, I've read Richard's arguments - the 'fax' proposal doesn't have a leg to stand on. At least now we can also dismiss it in very easy terms as well as in the details.

    You're spot on about "The debate takes place at an amazingly superficial level..." There's always with the British public of an element of 'leave it to the experts' with politics, but I've long come to the conclusion that 'aside from some deception' most of those in the establishment are just plain stupid.

  5. "I've long come to the conclusion that 'aside from some deception' most of those in the establishment are just plain stupid."

    I saw John Cleese explain that he'd taken to comedy because he saw it as an opportunity to show how idiotic politicians could be on occasion. He abandoned it in depression because it dawned on him that they really didn't have the foggiest idea what they were doing.

    I think the main point of attack is to pin down the renegotiation codswallop; they have no answers, and so they are pushed to an Art 50 exit, not being able to join in the full union and not being able to accept not having a seat at the top table.

    The Norway fax democracy and Greater Switzerland approaches are ridiculous on their face because of the state of Norway and Switzerland. The RN argument and the veto are slap down counters, like Bruce Lee casually deflecting a deadly kick with one hand before it's developed any power.

    The facile nature of political arguments presented to the electorate works to our advantage in this case.

    Civil servants may work at a deeper level but even then there are deep currents which don't go their way.

    It was a major mistake to introduce Norway and Switzerland into the argument, although they could hardly be avoided

  6. To quote you, TBF:

    Ta muchly for the link!

  7. "...we will be reduced to the state of Norway or Switzerland..."

    What, wealthy people living peacefully in a beautiful country and managing their own affairs?

    Well clearly that would be awful.

  8. @weekend Yachtsman Quite...and I thought the wording was actually rather rude as well - very demeaning to Norway and Switzerland.