Carwyn Jones, First Minister
Members will be aware that last week I undertook a visit to Norway.
Although not an EU member and outside of the EU Customs Union, Norway has full and unfettered access to the Single Market for most goods and services through its membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Area (EEA).
The purpose of my visit was to better understand how this relationship works and to gain insight into the advantages and disadvantages of this model.
Ahead of the forthcoming Brexit negotiations, it is important we build relationships with countries across Europe and the wider world and better understand how they trade successfully and operate internationally.
During my visit I had meetings with Norwegian businesses and Ministers with relevant responsibilities for trade and relations with the EU from both parties within the governing coalition. These included Ministers with responsibilities in the fields of Education and Research, Fisheries, European Affairs, Local Government and Labour & Social Affairs. I also met representatives of the main opposition Labour Party and of the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities, the body that represents local government.
The visit also gave me the opportunity to hear at first hand about Norwegian policies in relevant fields such as regional economic development, social cohesion, local government reform and education and training. In the context of the latter, I visited a sixth form college that has a high success rate of teaching 16-19 year olds to learn about the Norwegian approach to the curriculum and, in particular, the integration of vocational and academic strands. Norway invests highly in education and performs well internationally, particularly in the PISA ratings and scored above the OECD average in all subjects.
Norway is a country with a small population outside the EU but with the closest ties to it, which punches well above its weight both economically and politically. We have much to learn from its experience.