Why don't Switzerland and Norway want to join the EU?

(35 Posts)
VeryPunny Thu 16-Jun-16 12:10:02

There is lots of talk of how Norway has to pay almost as much as the UK to the EU, and yet has no say, and how Switzerland has to accommodate most EU demands. And yet neither of these two countries show any inclination to join. Why is that? And of those arguments, which apply to Britain?

For the record, I am genuinely undecided -there would be massive upheaval for my industry if we left, DH and my jobs would probably be at risk. But I've worked for an EU institution which made me utterly despair at what the EU has become.

Chalalala Thu 16-Jun-16 12:33:36

Funny you should ask because I just saw this article about the Norwegian PM talking about Brexit and the Norway/EU relations

www.politico.eu/article/eu-referendum-look-before-you-leap-norways-pm-tells-brexiteers/

Basically the Norwegian government wish they could join for the reasons you stated (no say, all the fees, all the immigration), but they don't think they can win a referendum on it. The EU is seen as having many problems (which is true), so people aren't keen to vote to be formally part of it, even though they're closely tied to it either way.

VeryPunny Thu 16-Jun-16 12:38:33

Thanks - that's a really interesting article. I can't get my head around the situation where we have something that most people don't want, but the government thinks is a good idea. At what point does democracy break down? I know sometimes people do need saving from themselves (eg smoking laws) but it's a fine line.

HisNameWasPrinceAndHeWasFunky Thu 16-Jun-16 12:47:43

Perhaps because they are both small and extremely wealthy has something to do with it? Plus much of the Swiss wealth stems from its famous secrecy & discretion. Norway has oil.

Both have much higher GDP per capita that the UK and also much higher than the EU average.

As Cha pointed out Norway has to abide by all the rules despite not being in EU, and has none of the say in making the rules - unlike UK which is involved in the drafting and passing of most EU legislation.

Chalalala Thu 16-Jun-16 12:50:24

Yes, it's interesting, I agree.

The classic example of the government imposing something most people don't want is the end of the death penalty - but that's a little different as it's a moral issue, I guess.

In this case the Norwegian government is still respecting the popular will, though, since they're not trying to bypass the referendum option to impose EU membership.

AnnaForbes Thu 16-Jun-16 14:30:07

Switzerland has wisely decided not to join because they can see the EU is a sinking ship. Switzerland is a very prosperous country, why on earth would it choose to shackle itself to the near moribund EU?

Just as Iceland did last year, the Swiss have chosen to retain their independence, they know they are better off outside the EU. As one of the Swiss counsellors, Thomas Minder, said "only a few lunatics may want to join the EU now" Spot on Mr Minder.

Systematician Thu 16-Jun-16 17:50:10

"Norway has to abide by all the rules despite not being in EU" - This is incorrect. Norway has to abide by all the rules related to the single market, i.e. roughly one quarter (Norwegian Official Report 2012:2 p. 795). So Norway's non-voting EEA-EFTA arrangement with the EU (but with the potential of influencing, consider also that many of the single market legal acts emanate from other international bodies where Norway has a seat, like UNECE) can be viewed upon as a trade-off between having voting rights like a country with one percent of the EU's population (EU), and not having to be integrated in the non-EEA policy areas (especially Norway, and too a lesser degree Iceland, is voluntarily part of these, of which Schengen is the most important; the UK would obviously not join it upon leaving) (EEA-EFTA).

EdithWeston Thu 16-Jun-16 17:55:43

I think Switzerland's history of neutrality means that it will not join any form of political union.

AnnaForbes Thu 16-Jun-16 19:31:53

I think Switzerland's history of neutrality means that it will not join any form of political union. Switzerland applied for membership to the EU many years ago. At that time, the EU was a trading bloc, not the political behemoth it has become.

OTheHugeManatee Thu 16-Jun-16 19:37:00

Norway hs to abide by Single Market rules but is exempt from measures aimed towards political union. It can't be said often enough that the EU (would-be superstate) is not the same thing as the EEA (customs union with common rules and standards relating to trade).

Norwegians are quite happy with the deal they have, which gets them trading access to the EEA without subordination to the EU Parliament and Supreme Court.

This would also be the best first step for the UK should we Brexit, as it would remove most of the risk that has been claimed by the Remain campaign.

OTheHugeManatee Thu 16-Jun-16 19:38:04

Oh and Switzerland formally withdrew its application to join the EU this week.

Lightbulbon Thu 16-Jun-16 19:46:39

Norways contribution to the eu is self serving- the money is used as grants to deprived areas which will indirectly benefit Norway.

Chalalala Thu 16-Jun-16 19:48:29

This would also be the best first step for the UK should we Brexit, as it would remove most of the risk that has been claimed by the Remain campaign.

Manatee, I agree, but I don't know if it would be politically possible given that the Norway deal comes with free movement with the EU. Several prominent Leavers have said they were opposed to it, in any case.

MeMySonAndl Thu 16-Jun-16 19:54:12

Swiss has always kept neutral, they don't get involved in other countries' issues. They will never agree to anything jeopardising that neutrality that is one of the pillars of their national identity.

Some people think that neutrality is commendable, some other think that is the epitome of not giving a sh*t about other countries. Joining the EU would force them to take sides and care about their neighbours- God forbid

NeckguardUnbespoke Thu 16-Jun-16 19:56:57

without subordination to the EU Parliament and Supreme Court.

Norway is a member of the Council of Europe and therefore subject both to the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights.

lljkk Thu 16-Jun-16 20:05:05

Swiss only very narrowly rejected being members of the EEA (% 50.3 no vs. 49.7 yes)

The margin wasn't a lot different for Norway in 1994 voting whether to be in EU (52.2 vs. 47.8% of vote).

OTheHugeManatee Thu 16-Jun-16 21:56:59

Neckguard - the ECJ and ECHR are not the same thing.

Chalalala - IMO it was reckless and foolish on both sides to rule out the EFTA option as of course this will need to be discussed. But ( I hardly need say this) we aren't having a vote on electing Boris and Gove. I don't think either would be PM should Cameron go. It would be madness not to adopt something like the Norway package, at least in the short/medium term. And I agree that accepting freedom of movement would be politically tricky, but I think if there was understanding that it was a transitional arrangement on the way to reclaiming democratic control it could be done. My hunch is that lack of domestic control over immigration is for many a proxy issue for a real frustration at the way democratic self-governance seems to be dwindling and if it were clear that this was being tackled then the public would tolerate freedom of movement in the short term.

There is also a precedent for quotas even within the EEA: Liechtenstein has such a quota and has not been booted out.

But these matters would all need to be negotiated, as there is no process or precedent for a country leaving. It would be complex but is not impossible. My hope is that in the event of Brexit wiser and more pragmatic heads will prevail and the smoothest transition out - most likely via the EEA - would be managed.

OTheHugeManatee Thu 16-Jun-16 21:57:38

Sorry, to be clear that's immigration quotas in Liechtenstein.

NeckguardUnbespoke Thu 16-Jun-16 22:14:02

the ECJ and ECHR are not the same thing.

Indeed. My apologies for assuming you were another of the people who talk about the ECtHR as being an EU institution.

Ambroxide Thu 16-Jun-16 22:19:00

This would also be the best first step for the UK should we Brexit, as it would remove most of the risk that has been claimed by the Remain campaign.

I think Germany has said they would strongly oppose this. They are pretty influential. I don't think anyone is going to let us do this.

SpringingIntoAction Thu 16-Jun-16 22:19:00

Because they do not want to be saddled with

the cost of bailing out Greece and the next countries
Junckers demand for an EU army
TTIP
loss of democracy (Switzerland has direct democracy via referendums)
giving the unelected undemocratic EU control over their citizens lives

Chalalala Thu 16-Jun-16 22:48:54

I hope you're right Manatee, and I can only assume/hope that Juncker (I think it was him?) was bluffing when he said the option would not be on the table. It would obviously be in all parties' interest and would provide some much-needed stability, if only as a transition. (I also think you're right about immigration.)

SpringingIntoAction Thu 16-Jun-16 23:11:43

Poland would never accept any limitation on freedom of movement.

KateInKorea Fri 17-Jun-16 06:26:57

I've lived in both Norway and Switzerland, some things they have that the UK doesn't is.
A) a national view that wasting money at a governmental level is bad and shameful.
B) no parallel private education for the ruling class
C) more transparency and much closer links between voters and representatives.
D) high value industries that provide gainful employment to school leavers.

The UK will need massive restructuring to emulate either of their economies.

Roonerspism Fri 17-Jun-16 06:36:27

My Swiss business colleague spoke about this exact thing yesterday.

The Swiss are in the main delighted they are not in the EU. The EU economy is down the pan. It's seen as restrictive and expensive and undemocratic. The Swiss model isn't perfect but it works well.

The Swiss do take some aspects of EU legislation to allow them to trade in certain respects with the EU.

They are delighted they didn't join and there is zero appetitive to ever do so.

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