Sat, Jan 07, 2017 - Page 7 News List

UK may face a ‘very hard Brexit’: Norway’s Solberg

POWDER KEPT DRY:The British prime minister has said little publicly about her negotiating position, arguing that to do so would weaken London’s hand in talks

Reuters, SEEON, Germany

Britain lacks experience in international negotiations due to its long membership of the EU and this could slow talks on its departure from the bloc, the premier of non-EU member Norway said, adding that she feared “a very hard Brexit.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May intends to launch by the end of March the two-year process of negotiations to leave the EU.

In an interview with Reuters, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said she hoped Britain would be able to negotiate an agreement that keeps it very close to the EU, but it would be a difficult task.

“And we do feel that sometimes when we are discussing with Britain, that their speed is limited by the fact that it is such a long time since they have negotiated” alone on such issues, she said late on Wednesday.

“I fear a very hard Brexit, but I hope we will find a better solution,” Solberg said.

Although not in the EU, Norway is part of the bloc’s single market and allows free movement for EU workers. It also contributes to the EU budget and participates in Europe’s open-border Schengen agreement.

Some Britons favor a Norway-style close relationship with the EU after Brexit. Others argue for a “hard Brexit” that would take Britain out of both the single market and the bloc’s customs union. Britain has never been included in the Schengen scheme.

May has so far said little publicly about her negotiating position, arguing that to do so would weaken London’s hand in the talks.

A spokesman for the British Department for Exiting the EU said the government was preparing for a “smooth and orderly exit” and was confident a deal could be reached that worked in the interests of both sides.

“We have been clear that we are seeking a bespoke arrangement that is unique to Britain, one that gives our businesses the maximum freedom to trade with and operate in the single market but also allows us to make our own decisions on immigration,” the spokesman said.

In a move that highlighted tensions at the heart of the British government over how to handle Brexit, the British ambassador to the EU, Ivan Rogers, resigned this week.

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