Photographer: Kristian Helgesen/Bloomberg

Gas Giant Norway Warns Brexit Parties to Keep It in the Game

Updated on
  • Norway is urging Barnier to consider its special status
  • A no-deal scenario is a possibility, Norway EU minister says

Norway says Britain and the EU need to figure out how to include it in the Brexit process.

The U.K.’s biggest gas supplier -- itself not an EU member -- is lobbying the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, not to put its access to the market at risk.

“Our core message to Barnier is that Norway isn’t just any ordinary third-party country,” Marit Berger Rosland, Norway’s EU and EEA Affairs Minister, said in an interview at the Foreign Ministry in Oslo.

Scandinavia’s richest country and western Europe’s biggest oil and gas exporter is working hard to ensure it doesn’t lose out in any transitional accord struck between the EU and Britain once it leaves the bloc. Norway provides about 40 percent of the U.K.’s energy needs, and is keen to defend its access to a key trade partner.

“Things are time-critical and it’s important to secure real agreements over the days and weeks we have up to the EU summit in the middle of December,” Rosland said. But comments by Barnier also suggest “we have to be prepared for a no-deal scenario.”

Reiterating a position held by her predecessor, Rosland said there was an understanding in Oslo that “any transition solutions will also be applied to Norway.” The 39-year-old minister says her message to the U.K. government is that it should work to “safeguard its interests with key partners, including Norway.”

While the minister says Norway doesn’t expect its gas exports to be hit by Brexit, because “both countries have a great interest in maintaining gas exports on good terms,” there are numerous scenarios to consider. Norway is also doing what it can to prepare for the possibility that Brexit talks won’t end in an agreement.

Rosland says the risks surrounding Brexit have underscored for Norway the value of its membership in the EEA.

“With all the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, the EEA model is now almost stronger because we are more aware of the predictability it gives us with access to the common market,” Rosland said. “Even if we are not a member of the EU, there is a clear cooperation model between us and the EU countries in the economic sphere.”

Norway’s state-owned Statnett and the U.K.’s National Grid are building an underwater power cable between the two countries, and this project is expected to be implemented and operated as planned, regardless of the Brexit process, she said.

“The EEA agreement is safer than it has been for a long time,” Rosland said.

— With assistance by Nick Rigillo

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