Norway, UK relations will survive political uncertainty, top diplomat says

Speakers Leif Johan Sevland, President and CEO of the ONS Foundation and Sarah Gillett, Her Majesty's Ambassador to Norway.
Speakers Leif Johan Sevland, President and CEO of the ONS Foundation and Sarah Gillett, Her Majesty's Ambassador to Norway.

A top diplomat said yesterday that Norway would remain a “close and valued” partner of the UK against a backdrop of political uncertainty.

Sarah Gillett, the UK’s ambassador to Norway, said both nations were in a “holding pattern” as they get ready to make new arrangements following Britain’s departure from the EU.

The two nations cannot negotiate new trade agreements until the UK leaves the EU, but Ms Gillett said London and Oslo were “preparing” for that day.

Ms Gillett, who studied international relations and politics at Aberdeen University, said diplomatic dialogue was becoming “deeper and broader” as both sides try to ensure a smooth transition.

She was addressing about 115 guests at the Aberdeen-Norway Gateway business event at the Macdonald Norwood Hall Hotel.

Norway is not a member of the EU or the customs union, but is part of the single market and the Schengen travel agreement.

The Scandinavian nation does a lot of trade with the UK and plays a large role in helping fulfill energy demand in Britain.

Norway and the UK also have many shared interests in the North Sea oil and gas industry, with companies in both countries working together on large offshore projects.

The future of Norway’s oil sector is a key issue for voters in the country’s parliamentary elections next week.

Polls are neck-and-neck between the centre-right Conservatives and centre-left Labour party, which creates the prospect of Norway’s Green Party becoming kingmakers.

The Green Party has pledged to scale back exploration and production on the Norwegian continental shelf.

Ms Gillett said Norway would remain a “close and valued partner” of the UK “whatever the outcome” of the election.

Leif Johan Sevland, head of the foundation which organises ONS (Offshore Northern Seas), an energy sector trade show in Stavanger, said he did not expect the election to lead to a significant change in Norway’s oil and gas politics.

Yesterday’s event was Granite PR’s fourth Aberdeen-Norway Gateway. The company also hosts “gateways” celebrating links between Aberdeen and Houston and Perth, Australia.

It has now hosted 10 such events.

Brett Jackson, founder and managing director of Granite PR, said: “The fact that we have reached a milestone with our 10th Gateway demonstrates the appetite there is in the north-east for exploring new markets and opportunities.

“Where better to explore than Stavanger, our sister city?”

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