UK voters back Norway-style Brexit, poll reveals

A new poll, commissioned by the Adam Smith Institute think tank has revealed that support for a deal along the lines of the Nordic country’s relationship with the continental bloc outweighs opposition by two-to-one, reports The Telegraph.

Norway’s consumers and businesses enjoy access to the single market, but are not obliged to comply with many EU rules, including those on justice, agriculture and fishing.

The result is a boon to those who believe the Norway option could be used to reduce the uncertainty that surrounds a choice to withdraw from the EU. Advocates suggest it represents a halfway house that could ease the process of disengaging from more than four decades of European regulation.

The ASI survey of more than 1,750 adults, carried out by YouGov on June 8, showed that 54pc of Britons would  support Britain pursuing such a deal for five to 10 years immediately following Brexit were the UK to leave. Just 25pc said that they would oppose such an arrangement.

Norway, as one member of the four-strong European Free Trade Association (EFTA), is also a part of the European Economic Area (EEA), commonly referred to as the European single market.

Sam Bowman, executive director of the ASI, said that a deal that kept the UK in the EEA would “take the risk out of leaving the EU, providing the time it would take to come up with a unique British solution” for trade with the economic bloc.

Experts at the Treasury, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (Niesr), and the London School of Economics have all found that remaining a part of the EEA would pose the least severe economic risk to  the UK after a decision to split from the EU.

The potential hit to gross domestic product (GDP) from such a move compares favourably with other post-EU options, including a bespoke deal along the lines of that enjoyed by Switzerland, or deciding not to forge a trade agreement at all, and instead relying on the minimum tariff rates secured by the UK’s membership of the World Trade Organisation.

Other polls show that a large proportion of support for withdrawal is motivated by opposition to EU migration. As such, political experts have suggested that joining up to EFTA, which requires members to allow EU citizens to come and live and work in the UK, could be politically unpalatable.

Jonathan Portes, a Niesr economist, said that leaving the EU for a Norwegian deal would be supported by those who are “quite relaxed about free trade and migration, but who don’t like the political union membership entails”.

It was also a way for the UK to enjoy many, if not all, of the EU’s benefits, while separating itself from the influence of the euro-using bloc, he said.

John Springford, of the Centre for European Reform, said that free movement would be an “obvious roadblock” for anyone in Westminster hoping to keep the UK in the EEA.

Mr Springford said: “It would be hard for elites to claim that the referendum had not essentially been a vote against free movement, when the majority of people who want to vote leave cite it as their biggest issue.”

However, the YouGov poll also showed that 57pc of Britons believe the Government should consider the Norway option in the event of a Brexit vote, even though free movement with the EU would continue. Just 24pc said that such an EFTA arrangement should not be on the table.