Our First Minister seems to have had a nice little jaunt to Norway to see how they cope with being outside the EU but inside the Single Market. A small oil-rich country on the fringes of the EU sounds almost similar to Wales – apart from the ‘oil-rich’ bit, which is pretty central to Norway’s economic success and is economically more important than any apparent similarities. Oh, and the bulk of their exports to the EU consist of oil and gas delivered through pipelines rather than goods which need to be physically checked to ascertain their true origin. Whatever, the basic model of being in the Single Market but outside the EU is certainly one deserving of some consideration, even if not immediately obviously relevant to Wales.
The response of the Tories’ leader in Wales was entirely predictable: Norway might be interesting, but what we need to concentrate on is a uniquely British solution, a unique relationship with the other EU countries of a type which no-one else enjoys. The implication is clearly that it will be not only unique, but ‘better’ - after all, if an existing model was considered good enough, it would be a lot quicker and simpler to replicate that than to create an entirely new model. It might even be achievable within the fabled two year timetable.
The other 27 will give the UK that unique and better deal, because …? Well, because they’re all foreigners and the UK is unique and special. Obviously. And of course, countries such as Norway which have already negotiated deals will be more than happy for the UK to come along and get a better deal, because …? Well, because they’re foreigners, not special and unique like the British, and they know their place. Again, obviously.
I was disappointed, but not surprised, at the First Minister’s reference to retaining freedom of movement, but only to go to a pre-identified job. (And sadly, Plaid has been making very similar noises.) It’s as though they see freedom of movement as something which applies only to other people, forgetting – or more likely deliberately ignoring – the probable reciprocity of any such arrangement. But in the real world constraints on ‘them’ coming ‘here’ also mean that the same constraints will apply to ‘us’ going ‘there’.So, in effect, politicians talking about limiting freedom of movement, in the case of nationals of other EU states, to those who have jobs to come to are also telling us that our own freedom of movement should be limited to that which primarily serves the interests of capital and employers rather than being considered as a right of ordinary people. Yet still they claim to be ‘internationalists’, ‘socialists’, and ‘progressives’. Their definitions of those words seem to owe more to Orwell than to Marx.