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Hannan wrong on Norway’s EU deal

by Jack Schickler | 03.03.2016

Conservative Euro-MP Daniel Hannan has responded robustly to yesterday’s government report on alternatives to EU membership. He says the government tells a “lie” in saying Norway applies 75 per cent of EU law. He cites “official statistics” showing that Norway, as a member of the European Economic Area, adopts just 9 per cent of EU laws.

But it is Hannan who has it wrong. It is true that Norway does not take part in all areas of EU law – such as the common agricultural policy. However, the figures he quotes are neither “official” nor a true reflection of how Norway applies EU law. The figure of “approximately three-quarters” of EU law cited by the UK government comes not from a “stray remark by a Eurofanatical Norwegian minister”, as Hannan states, but from a 900-page expert report commissioned by the Oslo government.

Hannan’s figures are poorly sourced and misleading

Hannan says that, “According to the EFTA Secretariat, the EU generated 52,183 legal instruments between 2000 and 2013, of which Norway adopted 4,724 – 9 per cent.”

This is not true. Tore Groenningsaeter, head of information and communications at the EFTA Secretariat, confirmed to InFacts that it had provided figures on the number of EU acts in force in the EEA Agreement but had “not compared these to EU figures”, which come from a different database. Comparing the two to reach a figure of 9 per cent is not an “official statistic”. Rather, it comes from the avowedly political Norwegian “No to EU” campaign.

As well as being unofficial, the figures are highly dubious, purporting to compare two sets of figures which are not directly comparable and counting many legal acts which are inconsequential or limited in effect.

Of the 2,070 legal acts in 2012, a total of 743 (36 per cent) were “decisions”, with direct effect, and often targeted or administrative in nature. A recent example ends anti-dumping proceedings on Indian silico-manganese. Likewise, Commission regulations – which also have direct application and, unlike Council or Parliament regulations, are generally technical or limited – accounted for 1,113 (54 per cent) of those legal acts. A recent example determines the customs treatment of glitter lamps.

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Morten Harper, chief researcher at No to EU, confirmed to InFacts that they counted all legislation: adopted EU directives, regulations and other legal decisions, as well as international agreements. Harper also noted that the expert report referred to above cites a figure of 10 to 15 per cent, including Schengen and other Norway-EU agreements, which is not so different from the No to EU number. The report notes that this figure includes many time-limited laws which lapse before they can be applied in Norway, and that a particularly large share of EU laws concern agriculture, fisheries and customs, in which Norway does not take part. Later on the report cites the figure of “about three quarters”, on the basis that Norway largely or fully applies 23 of the 31 chapters in Iceland’s application to join the EU – with each chapter corresponding to a broad policy area, such as transport or economic and monetary union. This is the figure used in the introduction to the report, but for No to EU, this methodology is “too vague”.

As InFacts has said previously, counting laws is rarely a useful statistical tool. A more meaningful figure Hannan could have given was how many of the 52,183 legal instruments Norway got to vote on. The answer is zero. The UK, by contrast, has 12.7 per cent of the votes in the Council of the EU and has been on the winning side 87 per cent of the time. Oslo’s lack of influence is the reason why Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg favours EU membership.

This article was edited on 4 March to include No to EU’s response, which appears in the penultimate paragraph. Daniel Hannan did not reply to InFacts’ request for comment.
Edited by Alan Wheatley

6 Responses to “Hannan wrong on Norway’s EU deal”

  • I agree that the 9 percent figure is misleading, but the 75 percent figure is wrong, even if it is given the government report. The mistake is only made in the chapter one, the summary chapter, and is directly at odds with the material the chapter is supposed to sum up:

    The report operates with a “net” figure (ch. 25.3.3) for EEA of 28.1 percent, a number which will be somewhat higher (unfortunately not specified) if one adds the legislative acts from non-EEA policy areas where Norway participates. Ghese findings were deemed unimportant, and instead the finding that Norway is part of 3/4 of the EU’s policy areas, weighted evenly, (ch. 25.4) was emphasised in the conclusions (ch. 25.4.5-25.5), though not to the point of making the clear mistake which is made in the summary chapter 1, which as opposed to ch. 25 was translated to English: There (p. 18, p. 6 in the translated version) “policy area” is replaced by “legislative acts”, contradicting the report’s own findings. You might even be able to verify this with Google Translate.

    The full report: https://www.regjeringen.no/contentassets/5d3982d042a2472eb1b20639cd8b2341/no/pdfs/nou201220120002000dddpdfs.pdf The translated version: https://web.archive.org/web/20120127051142/http://www.regjeringen.no/pages/36798821/PDFS/NOU201220120002000EN_PDFS.pdf (note how even our own government doesn’t maintain its web page properly).

    Definitions: gross percentage – the percentage of all historical EU legislative acts implemented by Norway at some point (which is a figure closer to the one Hannan refers to); net percentage – the percentage of EU directives and regulations (excluding other types of legislative acts) currently in place which is also currently in place in Norway.

    The above should be sufficient to reject the “75 percent law claim”. Let me add a few more points:

    One should distinguish between Norway’s level of integration, and the level of integration which is mandatory in the EFTA/EEA alternative. Norway is also part of Schengen, Dublin, Prüm, Europol, Eurojust, and others (p. 801), has engaged to some degree in common defence policy (EDA), and is also part of cooperation within education, research, and culture (p. 800).

    Moreover, you should note that there is no objective way to “demarcate” each single policy area in the way that you can with the legislative acts. The report, using the EU’s negotiation chapters for Iceland’s membership application, finds that Norway is fully or to a high extent part of 23 out of 31 material policy areas in the EU. It is quite obvious to me that if one applied some rough weights to the policy areas, which are really the , the figure would have been substantially lower than 75 percent. A look at table 25.5 on p. 799 for instance shows how “IT and media”, “intellectual property”, and “statistics” are given the same weight as “economic and
    monetary policy”, “fisheries policy”, and “external relations”, respectively. If you disregard Norway’s non-EEA integration, you only remove three areas (25 Science and research, 26 Education and culture, and 24 Justice and security policy. 31 Defence, foreign and security policy is placed in the non-integration category despite some voluntary integration on Norway’s part (p. 802)), overstating the importance of the EEA (seven times as important as Norway’s non-EEA integration, and amounting to 2/3 of all EU integration, if one were to follow this division).

    Final points: Obviously, you can say that if one in the same way were to apply weights to the legislative acts, Norway’s level of integration would be more than 28.1 percent. I agree that, in any case, you need more information than this to be properly informed about the level of integration. For instance, Schengen amounts to a very small part of the legislation when you consider its strategic importance (again, the precise number was not found in the government report, and thus Schengen legislation is not part of the 28.1 percent figure).

    From Britain’s perspective, the attention on the “Norway option” is due to the EEA aspect. A fair measure of the law ratio for EEA/EFTA out of the EU total should be one quarter, not three quarters. When it comes to “integration ratio” for EEA/EFTA (out of the EU total, and out of the total current British integration, respectively), that is a subjective assessment. Schengen and EMU, which the United Kingdom is not part of, are areas of such importance that the “EEA ratio” should become significantly higher. The CAP, the CFP, external trade relations and the common defence policy should be the most important other areas.

  • I’ve sent a message to Mr Hannan’s FB page with a link to this article and a request for his response. Clearly, this article puts the ball in his court.

    Brexiteers argue that leaving the EU will mean that the UK will resume its seat at the WTO. Are there any stats on what proportion of EU trade legislation is decided at the WTO and merely implemented by the EU?

    Brexiteers argue that the UK is outvoted in the Council of Ministers more than any other country, especially on trade. In what proportion of COM decisions was the UK outvoted? Stats appreciated.

    • One other thing: any idea just what % of the votes the UK would have at the WTO? Or would it be 1/162, being 0.62% of the votes rather than the weighted 12+% in the EU.

      This is yet another thing on which the Brexiter’s Project Fear and Fibbing is remarkably silent.

  • So in terms of Norway adopting EU law, the truth is neither 9% nor 75% but after factoring in weighting, more like 25%…..well great. Big deal. It doesn’t matter, as the EEA/EFTA option will provide us with the means to break with the political EU, keep the free market, and engage with non EU nations and global regulatory bodies ( the ‘real’ top table) just as Norway does. Bring it on.

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