LeaveHQ, 21/01/2016  

BBC business correspondent, Jonty Bloom, has been to Norway so to tell us all how the relationship between Norway and the EU works. Precisely why he needed to go to Norway beats the hell out of us since he could just as easily have used Google and read the EEA Agreement

Bloom has it that "as Norway is not a member of the EU, it has no say over these or any other EU rules. It can lobby against them, but it does not sit round the table when they are proposed, discussed, amended, debated, or voted into law. It most certainly does not have a veto over any legislation and yet the consequences can be huge."

Had he read the agreement he would have discovered that:

According to the principle of unanimity applied in the EEA Joint Committee, all the EFTA states must agree in order for new EU legislation to be integrated into the EEA Agreement and for it to apply to cooperation between the EFTA states and the EU. If one EFTA state opposes integration, this also affects the other EFTA states in that the rules will not apply to them either, neither in the individual states nor between the EFTA states themselves nor in their relations with the EU. This possibility that each EFTA state has to object to new rules that lie within the scope of the EEA Agreement becoming applicable to the EFTA pillar is often referred to as these parties’ right of veto.

So far, this right has not been exercised. This is partly because when EU legislation is to be integrated into the EEA Agreement it is submitted to the EEA Joint Committee at the final stage of an extensive process of information and consultation between the contracting parties. The purpose of this process is to ensure that agreement is reached on such decisions. During the negotiations on the EEA Agreement, compromises were found if a state had constitutional objections to the content or could invoke fundamental national interests. Even though constitutional problems are unlikely to arise in the day-to-day EEA work, the will to reach necessary compromises must still be regarded as a basic condition for cooperation.

The source for this comes in at the very top of the Google search results when you type "efta veto". What this tells us is that there is no editorial procedure at the BBC that stands in the way of such profoundly erroneous claims. It also tells us that Bloom does not in any way fact check his own work.

But we note that Bloom says Norway "most certainly does not have a veto" as though to impress his certitude upon us. You could only really conclude that this is a deliberate lie.

The claim is made in reference to a particular passage in which Bloom writes "OSO Hotwater is a maker of central heating boilers just outside Oslo, and a few years ago it woke up to a nightmare. Overnight it discovered that the EU was introducing new environmental and energy efficiency standards that favoured gas powered boilers over electric ones. As OSO's boss Sigurd Braathen told me he did the calculations and realised that half of Oso's products would soon be useless: unsaleable."

This is quite remarkable on several counts. The energy efficiency standards are those embodied in EU law. In this, there is a global hierarchy. If there is a global standard, then trading blocs and WTO members MUST adopt it. They can embellish it locally, but not in such a way as to create a trade barrier. For international trade purposes, the international standard takes precedence over the local standard, and as long as the exporter complies with the international standard, the importer nation (or bloc) can't refuse it. If OSO produced to the global standard there wouldn't be a problem.

We can let Bloom off the hook for not knowing that much. After all, he is just an idle BBC hack. But supposing his scenario were absolutely true we would have very little sympathy. Bloom retails that OSO Hotwater discovered "overnight" that the law was changing. We would ask whose fault that is? Nothing in the EU legislative process happens overnight - and the one good thing we can say about the EU is that it is fairly transparent in publishing its intentions. 

The standards bodies are not EU institutions and all participating states are consulted through their own standards agencies, in which consumer groups, manufacturers and trade guilds are involved in the process. This at the very beginning of the process before it goes anywhere near the EU parliament for discussion - and incidentally, the best way of influencing the substance of regulations. 

If such is only discovered "overnight" then we would note that OSO Hotwater is not paying proper attention to the industry and should perhaps take industry journals more seriously instead of moaning to BBC hacks who are only going to invent stories anyway. 

This is actually the second time this month that a BBC hack has been on an expenses paid jolly to tell fibs about the EU. We cannot now dismiss this as the casual journalistic incompetence we normally see from them. The BBC is clearly agenda driven. Something about the Norway Option has them hot and bothered. It should.

UPDATE: Digging a little deeper, we discover Bloom is an even bigger liar than we thought. EUreferendum.com explains.

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