First to introduce this series of posts that I will be doing. I will be focusing on a number of non-EU nations and their relationship with the EU. First up is the only country to have left the EEC or as it is now know the EU, Greenland.
Greenland was once a member of the European Economic Community, the EU’s predecessor. The EEC was mainly about trade between its members and this is how the UK ended up being a member of the EU, through EEC membership. It was about the four freedoms of goods, services, capital and people, as well as being a customs Union.
It chose to leave the EEC much like the UK has decided to leave the EU and surprisingly it did so by “..52%..” which sounds oddly familiar. So I have decided to do some research into what Greenland can teach the UK about leaving the EU.
Firstly a bit about Greenland. While it is a huge nation in terms of area it isn’t very large in terms of population with just “56,243" people in total. This isn’t really comparable to the UK in terms of size or population but it gives us an indication of what it will be like to leave the EU. Greenland's membership of the EEC ended in 1985 after a referendum in 1982 and it doesn’t look like it will join the EU at all.
I will split this into two parts with the negotiations and then the end deal. The negotiations by all accounts were long and difficult. Whenever I hear an interview about it, the story seems to be the same. All we wanted to negotiate was fishing and it took ages, or something to that extent. Amazingly “…it took until 1985 until negotiations were completed, following more than 100 meetings with EU officials”.
The message this has for the UK is simple, this wont be easy if you want to negotiate from scratch. Greenland had to negotiate their own unique deal around fisheries and it took time and effort. For me it guides the UK towards the ‘Norway option’ which involves economic rather than political cooperation. It is a deal other countries have already agreed with the EU, we would just be copying it rather than trying to “reinvent the wheel”.
Greenland itself could also benefit from being part of the single market though the EFTA+EEA agreement. It wouldn’t need to be part of the EU’s common fisheries policy and may be able to keep the deal it has today on fishing. This may lead the way for Greenland joining EFTA and the EEA creating an even larger bloc.
There is another side to this though. Fishing is much more important to Greenland being the countries main industry. This meant that the importance of getting a good deal was huge. It is “ 90% of its exports” which is by no means small, getting a good deal was extremely important to them so there is in some ways little wonder it took so long to agree something.
The deal itself was essentially the EU paying Greenland for fishing access. “The EU still provides substantial funds in return for access to some of Greenland’s fishing grounds and to restructure its fishing fleet”. In the end the deal was a good one and shows a number of things to the UK as it leaves the EU.
While not being an economic expert, Greenland just after it left the EU seemed in a good economic state. It is still seeing GDP growth to this day.
The main point is that it’s possible to leave the EU as a country has already left the EEC which was the EU’s predecessor. I will also point out that there wasn’t a formal way of leaving the EEC then whereas Article 50 gives the UK a timetable for negotiations.
That then is Greenland's exit from the EU. It was a long time in the making true but the end deal seems to be a good one.