By Gabriela Baczynska
Britain will get a Norway-type deal to keep close economic ties with the European Union but will have no say on decision-making in the bloc after “Brexit” materialises, Finland’s former prime minister Alexander Stubb said on Sunday.
The shock British referendum result has put into question Europe’s post-war order, sent stocks tumbling around the world and left the EU pondering how to handle the divorce.
Stubb, who served as Finland’s prime minister in 2014-15, said the EU should not push Britain into quickly launching a formal exit procedure.
“This will be an extremely complicated set of negotiations, there will be hundreds and thousands of legal, political and economic implications. After the initial shock, we should now take it easy and be patient, one step at a time,” Stubb said.
“It’s going painful and long,” he told Reuters in a phone interview, adding that putting a firm deadline on the process would be “unwise”.
Many European politicians – with the notable exception of German Chancellor Angela Merkel – have put pressure on Britain to trigger the exit procedure as soon as possible after Britain’s outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron said the move was unlikely before October.
“We should not be childish in thinking about punishing the UK. It’s not in the interest of Europe to cut relations with the United Kingdom and it’s not in the interest of the UK to be cut off from the continent immediately either,” he said.
Stubb, who held several EU jobs and was most recently Finland’s finance minister until his party sacked him earlier this month, said the new deal between Britain and the bloc should keep maximum economic integration possible and pointed to non-EU member Norway as the example.
“We should try to keep Britain as close as possible but they will not have the possibility to influence decision-making. The UK will become a new Norway,” he said.
“They will pay for membership, have less influence on decision-making and laws but at the end of the day have similar benefits they have today.”
As a member of the European Economic Area, Norway gets access to EU’s single market in exchange for contributing about 400 million euros a year to the EU budget. But it must accept EU’s rules on the single market and free movement of people without a vote.
Stubb dismissed as unrealistic the Brexit campaign promise to curb immigration into Britain.
“If Britain wants to participate in the free movement of goods, services and money, it will have to participate in the free movement of labour as well. That’s what Norway does. That’s tough luck but that’s how it goes,” he said.