More Norwegians want to see a bilateral comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU replacing Norway's membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) than those who want to hold onto the country's EEA membership according to a new opinion poll. The poll was produced last week by the polling company Sentio for the Norwegian organisation Nei til EU who opposes Norwegian EU membership. Norway is not part of the EU but a member of the EEA Agreement along with its EFTA partners Iceland, Liechtenstein and all the EU member states.

The poll says 35% would prefer a comprehensive free trade agreement, like the British government is aiming for, while less than a quarter, or 23%, would like to hold onto the EEA Agreement often dubbed as the 'Norway option'. The rest is undecided. Measuring only those favouring a free trade agreement and those for the EEA Agreement over 60% would like to switch to a free trade deal while almost 40% would like to keep the EEA arrangement. Meanwhile almost half the Norwegian people support a referendum on whether to ditch the EEA membership.

While only 20% are opposed to a popular vote on Norway's almost quarter of a century old EEA membership 47% would like to see that happening. Measuring only those two groups 70% are in favour of a referendum and 30% against it. According to the Norwegian daily Nationen a popular vote is supported by people on both sides of the debate on whether Norway should join the EU or not. Sentio also asked whether people wanted to join the EU or not with 60% rejecting membership and 23 in favour. Or 72% opposed to 28% of those for or against.

The vast majority of Norwegians have opposed EU membership in every opinion poll published since early 2005. In the case of Iceland in every poll since July 2009. Irene Johansen, MP for the Norwegian Labour Party and vice chairwoman of the European Movement Norway, says to Nationen that both supporters and opponents of EU membership are aware of the flaws of EEA Agreement. Especially that Norway has to unilaterally adopt EU legislation regarding the blocs inner market. Consequently Johansen says the current EEA debate in Norway is very timely.

There are those in Britain who argue that the British government should aim for membership of the EEA Agreement through EFTA after leaving the EU. But not even the Norwegians themselves favour the so-called Norway option. Only 23% of them would like to keep the current arrangement. Probably the same 23% who want to join the EU. After all senior politicians involved in negotiating the EEA Agreement a quarter of a century ago saw it as a sort of a waiting room for EU membership. So why on Earth should Britain even consider this option?