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Norwegians pay about as much as Brits to access EU

by Sam Ashworth-Hayes | 11.02.2016

Some eurosceptics would like to see the UK adopt the “Norwegian model“. Oslo takes part in selected EU programmes and enjoys access to the single market, but has no vote over the rules governing that market.

Leaving aside the issue of whether or not that’s sensible, in net terms Norway pays a similar sum per person for its arrangement as the UK does for full membership.

To see why this is so, start with Norway’s gross contribution. In 2016, Norway’s payments in relation to its membership of the European single market and other EU programmes it takes part in will come to about £623 million* or £119 a head, according to an analysis by InFacts of data provided by the country’s embassy in the UK.

Unfortunately, there are no public figures for the money Norway gets back from these programmes, making it impossible to be certain what its net contribution is. However, a generous assumption would be that Norway receives an amount per capita similar to what the UK receives from those parts of Europe’s arrangements in which Norway participates—mainly the EU’s science funding programme. (The UK has been notably successful in winning EU science grants.)

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Britain’s receipts from EU programmes that Norway also benefits from (again, using generous assumptions) come to £23 per person**. Subtracting that amount from Norway’s gross contribution, we get an estimated net contribution of £96 per head.

What is the equivalent figure for Britain? As InFacts has previously shown, the UK sent £12.9 billion to the EU last year. After subtracting the money the EU spends in the UK and money that the UK would spend anyway because of its commitment to global development targets, the UK’s net contribution to the EU comes to £96 per capita—by coincidence, exactly the same as our estimate for Norway.

This is not to say that Britain would have to pay the same per head as Norway if we quit the EU and adopted the Norwegian model. After all, the UK’s GDP per person is lower than Norway’s. Perhaps the UK could plead poverty and negotiate a lower contribution to the EU in a post-Brexit arrangement. On the other hand, if the split were acrimonious, things could turn out worse.

Edited by Hugo Dixon and Sebastian Mallaby

* Norway contributes €381 million (£294 million) to EU projects in areas like research; €400 million (£308 million) at the behest of the EU on grants to poorer EU nations; and 262 million Norwegian Krone (£21 million) on the upkeep of the institutions of the European Economic Area. These amounts add up to £623 million. Norway also contributes to Frontex (the border agency), provides humanitarian support for refugees, and seconds experts to the Commission. There are no public estimates of these costs, but including them would show the cost of the “Norway option” to be higher.

**This sum is reached by taking the £1.4 billion the EU gives directly to the private sector in the UK, and the £100 million given to the UK government for things other than the Common Agricultural Policy and regional funds; CAP and regional funds are excluded as Norway does not participate in either. The resulting £1.5 billion is an upper bound estimate since it probably includes some types of project for which Norway is not eligible.

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10 Responses to “Norwegians pay about as much as Brits to access EU”

  • Your headline is, to be polite, disingenuous. How much of Norway’s total payment is mandatory? Much of what you describe is voluntary, essentially foreign aid, so hardly an entry fee. How much is really to “access the EU” and how much for entirely separate programmes which it chooses to join on the basis of its own interests? I guess that analysis would rather undermine your case so is disguised!

  • According to Norway’s own information, Norway only pays for the different projects and funding of disparities within EU, in total with £303 million (not billion) or €388 million.
    So that means that Norway pays 33 times less than the UK and cherry picks what they want to participate in and nothing for access to the common market (EU).
    http://www.eu-norway.org/eu/Financial-contribution/
    Your claim is just a fabrication by the looks of it.

    • And I forgot to mention; according to the statistics available online UK pays £12.9 billion, taken in parity with the number of citizens in Norway and in the UK that is 33 times more than Norway and while their population is less than the UK, they are still several million, not 33 times less populated.

      • Norway “cherry picks what they want to participate in and nothing for access to the common market (EU)”. I’m sorry but this is not true.

        Those €388 million are paid for the EEA (European Economic Area), and the only things Norway gets to decide on are agriculture and fishing.

        Also, I believe you forgot about the other €478 million that Norway pays, annually, in addition to the amount you already mentioned.
        I’m taking this information from the page you linked.

  • http://www.eu-norway.org/eu/financial-contribution/

    “For the period 2014 – 2021, Norway’s annual contribution to 15 beneficialry states through the current EEA and Norway Grants scheme will be 391 million euro.”

    Which is €49m/year

    Norway also contributes to some running cost and for Erasmus and research where it will get most of its money back resulting in Norway contributing around €10 per person

    The figures for the UK are completely wrong and the UKs contribution in 2015 was €21.409bn and net of €13.942bn which works out at €215 per person

  • Well as far as I can see, Norway is paying 171 per capita while the UK is paying 201 per capita. Which is considerably less than “about the same”.

    But even if one thinks this is not a big deal, you have to take into account that the biggest part of the norwegian payment is actually for the research and innovation programms as well as educational purposes.

    In order to understand why the UK would not pay nearly as much to participate in these programs, try (without googleing) to name 3 of the best universities in the UK. And now try to name 3 of the best universities in norway…

    Among the top 10 rated universities in the world, there are 4 British. The best ranked norwegian university comes on rank 113. The highest ranked EU University comes at rank 33. Of course the UK will be able to strike a way better deal because the EU is way more dependent on the UK research facilities, than the norwegian ones.

    One more important point: Nowhere in your article you consider the large amount of costs that are caused by the uncontrolled migration process, the UK has to accept via the EU.