‘An earthquake’: How Norway reacted to UK election

Norwegian politicians and commentators foresee an increasingly difficult Brexit after Britain’s governing Conservative Party lost its parliamentary majority in last night’s general election.

'An earthquake': How Norway reacted to UK election
Norwegian foreign minister Børge Brende foresees a tough time for the UK in Brexit negotiations after last night's election left a hung parliament in Westminster. File photo: Terje Pedersen / NTB scan

In a surprise result, the Labour Party, led by left-winger Jeremy Corbyn, gained large numbers of seats in the UK’s House of Commons, leaving a hung parliament and the risk of political turmoil in London in the run-up to Brexit negotiations.

Norway is not a member of the EU, but is closely associated with the bloc through its memberships in the European Economic Area (EEA) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

The Scandinavian country’s relationship to the EU has previously been mentioned as a model the UK could look at adopting for its own divorce from the union.

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Øivind Bratberg, professor of political science at Oslo University, told broadcaster NRK that British prime minister Theresa May found herself in an “unexpected squeeze” following the result.

“If election day polls are correct, it’s an earthquake,” Bratberg told the broadcaster Thursday night, in reference to exit polls – since borne out to be largely correct – that predicted the Conservatives losing their majority.

Bratberg added that the loss of a strong mandate for Brexit – May’s stated goal when she announced the snap general election – would make the UK’s negotiations to leave the EU significantly harder.

The professor drew comparisons to problems experienced by the UK in ratifying the Maastricht Treaty in the mid-2000s.

“There was a terrible struggle with a weak majority and constant rebellion in parliamentary groups. Now it looks even worse [for Brexit] if they need a support party to form a majority,” he said.

Norwegian foreign minister Børge Brende also said that he feared a more difficult Brexit process after the result.

“Unpredictability after the election is extra demanding when [Britain] is leaving the EU. The process is so complicated that if you don’t have a majority in parliament, it will be difficult regardless of who is prime minister,” Brende told NRK.

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Norway’s opposition Labour party (Arbeidspartiet) leader Jonas Gahr Støre said that the British Conservatives would suffer from its loss of majority, should it go on to lead the UK through the Brexit process.

“A government that is negotiating needs stability and calm on its home turf and I think they will have that to a lesser degree now. They will be affected by this when they negotiate with the EU,” he said.