Norway Braces for No-Deal Brexit With Eye on Keeping Gas Flowing

(Bloomberg) -- Norway is girding for a no-deal scenario after Brexit as leaders of both countries are poring through the details to avoid disruptions to massive natural gas flows and other trade.

On Monday, Norway’s Trade Minister Torbjorn Roe Isaksen met with International Trade Secretary Liam Fox in London, discussing Brexit and the future relationship between the two countries after the U.K.’s departure from the European Union. He met officials at the Department for Exiting the European Union on Tuesday.

“We have to prepare for a no-deal scenario,” Roe Isaksen said by phone from London. “No one wants this, but it’s a probable outcome that we’ll have to prepare for.”

Norway is the biggest supplier of natural gas to the U.K., and both countries share deep mutual interests in keeping gas flowing unencumbered even if the U.K. should stumble out of the bloc without a deal. The U.K. is Norway’s single largest market, with exports worth about $23 billion last year, mostly oil and gas.

“We have about 25 to 30 percent of the British gas market, this is just as important to the Brits as it is for us,” Roe Isaksen said. “Both on the British and the Norwegian side we will, in an unlikely yet possible no-deal scenario, do everything we can so that gas exports will continue as today.”

Should the U.K. leave the bloc without a deal, the WTO rules will apply and higher tariffs in some areas, the minister said. The British “have been very clear to us that their starting point is also to minimize any disturbances from higher tariffs,” he said.

Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg also met with Theresa May in Oslo last month. The two agreed to reciprocate the rights of citizens living in each others’ countries no matter what outcome of the Brexit process.

Norway is a member of the European Economic Area and trades almost freely with the rest of the EU.

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