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Unit 4 Macro: Can Spain Remain Competitive?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Competitiveness will be key to Spain’s prospects of a durable economic recovery and the chances of cutting debt. Spain would probably benefit from a devaluation of her currency but there are other factors that drive competitiveness in global markets. Indeed there are plenty of large and medium large Spanish businesses that have growth and export potential even if Spain stays within the Euro Zone. The growing share of Spanish service exports is a good sign especially in the areas of financial services and engineering. 

This FT video looks at what Spain might do to bolster overall competitiveness including a focus on research and development and innovation together with economic reforms designed to raise productivity.

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Unit 1 Micro: Recycling and Reusing Electrical Waste

The European Union is bringing in tough new laws covering the collection and recycling of the growing mountain of electrical waste - also known as e-waste. From 2016 - for every hundred tonnes of electrical items put on the market during the previous three years member countries will have to collect and recycle 45 tonnes of e-waste. The EU directive provides an opportunity for businesses that can recycle and reuse electrical products and their many component parts - the high global prices for essential raw materials gives added impetus to the challenge to tackle the e-waste problem. This news video also looks at entrepreneurial activity in recycling waste in India.

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Unit 2 Macro: EU Crisis Prompts Labour Migration

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The financial crisis in the European Union is prompting an exodus of many young people from struggling EU countries - this short new report looks at the effects of people from France migrating to the Ivory Coast - does the host nation benefit in the medium term?

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Behavioural Economics: Compulsory Breathalysers

Monday, July 02, 2012

Alcohol-related accidents are the leading cause of death and serious injury for victims of car crashes in France and the government has decided to introduce a strong behavioural nudge by making it compulsory for every car to have a portable breathalyser kit in their vehicles or risk a fine. This applies to every vehicle including those driven by tourists. Vehicle owners will have until November 2012 to get used to it before the fines are imposed.

Having a breathalyser in the glove box or on the front passenger seat might well be an effective reminder for people before they turn on the ignition. Reminders of our mortality and/or our morality can often prime us to make safer, better choices. I applaud the French government for introducing this new law. All motorists must also have with them a high-visibility safety vest and a warning triangle.

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Unit 2 Macro: Migration and the UK Economy

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A revision blog on the economic impact of migration on the UK economy

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Unit 4 Macro: Spanish unemployed head to Argentina

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Catastrophically high unemployment in countries such as Spain are causing people to leave the Med in search of work elsewhere and thousands are trying their luck in South America. This short video from Al Jazeerah news looks at the growing number of people heading to Argentina looking for a job or perhaps the chance to start a new business. Watching it is a chance to revise some of the factors that affect the geographical mobility of labour? This Economist report looks at some of the causes of geographical immobility of labour.

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Unit 1 Micro: The Collapsing Price of Carbon

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The price of carbon emissions permits inside the EU’s emissions trading system has fallen to a record low. A sharp fall in total CO2 emissions in Europe has been the driving factor behind the fall in the carbon price. Last year Germany’s CO2 emissions fell by 1.2% and the UK saw a 7.2% reduction. The overall decline in the 27 country ETS was 2.4% in 2011 causing the carbon price to drop below 7 Euros per tonne.

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Unit 3 Micro: EU Imposes Further Price Cap on Mobile Phone Companies

Thursday, March 29, 2012

For several years the European Union Competition Commission has been targeting the oligopolistic mobile phone industry accusing it of damaging consumer welfare with high roaming charges when people are travelling and working within Europe. Yesterday marked another landmark in the battle between the regulators and the industry.

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Unit 4 Macro: Enlarging the EU

Friday, March 09, 2012

Here are some links to video resources on prospects for further enlargement of the European Union single market.

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Unit 1 Micro - Labour Migration and the Economy

Monday, March 05, 2012

Migration from one country to another has become an increasingly important feature of our globalizing world and it raises many important economic, social and political issues. About 200-million people — about 3% of the world’s population — now live in countries in which they were not born. In the United Kingdom in 2010, the number of international migrants as a percentage of the population rose above 10% for the first time after several years of high rates of net inward migration

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Unit 3 Micro: Patent Wars- A Touchy Subject for Apple

Friday, December 16, 2011

This excellent news piece from Ben Cohen at Channel 4 looks at the increasingly aggressive patent war being fought by the manufacturers of the world’s leading mobile phone and tablet devices - the most profitable products in the digital economy. “Where once the giants (Google and Apple) competed on features, they now compete on patents.”

The news feature looks in particular at the intellectual property surrounding the slide-screen technology used by millions to unlock a device. Apple claims the IP to this but a video tracked back to twenty years ago suggests that developers were already thinking of something remarkably similar long before the iPhone came into existence. Can the makers of Android defend legal claims from Apple that their IP has been infringed? And who will end up paying for the enormous legal fees and possible extra licencing costs?


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Unit 3 Micro: Science Cities and External Economies of Scale

Thursday, September 29, 2011

This feature article from the BBC web site is essentially about the vital importance of high-knowledge industries in sustaining competitiveness and growth in a globalising world. Europe lags behind many emerging countries in terms of the resources devoted to science and technology, research and development and creative industries in particular.

But the article makes reference to the expansion of science cities - knowledge clusters that bring together higher education expertise and entrepreneurial zeal - their number continues to grow from California and Boston in the USA, Cambridge in the UK, Education City in Qatar, Science City in Zurich and Digital Media City in Seoul. All good examples to use of the commercial leverage from external economies of scale in high-tech industries.

Unit 3 Micro: Economies of Scale in Solar Power

Friday, May 27, 2011

How about this for economies of scale in the renewable energy industry? A new photovoltaic park has opened in Les Mées in France, By the end of 2011, solar panels will cover 200 hectares and produce around 100MW, making it the biggest solar array in France.

AQA A2 Economics - European Context

Monday, May 23, 2011

Each of the AQA a2 economics papers contains data response questions where understanding and awareness of the context of the economics of the European Union comes into play. We have a EU Economy in Focus study companion which is published in updated form each year. Details are available here. One area for revision focuses on the analysis diagrams that might be used to support your answers to EU context questions, I have put together a listing of topic areas where a diagrammatic approach might pay dividends - it is not exhaustive of course, merely some suggestions that might be useful. It appears below:

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A2 Macro: Chinese investment in the EU

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

There is much focus on Chinese foreign direct investment in Africa and Latin America - China is also making huge investments in Australia as my friend Mark Johnston writes about in this blog. Here Euro News looks at investment in the European Union by Chinese owned businesses. New motorways in Poland ahead of the 2012 European Football Championships, co-financed by the EU, are being built by Chinese companies. The Chinese are also buying up public debt, in Greece, Spain and Portugal.

A2 Micro: EU Aviation - State Aid and State Ownership

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I have put together a short revision exam-style question for AQA Unit 3 (Micro) focusing on some of the issues / problems facing the European Airline industry. Many of the established airlines are part-state owned and the question of nationalisation, government emergency funding / state aid was highly topical this time last year in the wake of the recession and the volcanic ash crisis. The document can be downloaded below and I have linked also to some other A2 micro revision resources


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Soap powder cartel leaves stain on colluders

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The EU Competition Commission got into a LATHER about alleged price fixing by a number of multinational soap and washing powder producers and in a ruling today they have imposed fines on Unilever and Procter & Gamble €315.2m ($456m) for fixing washing powder prices in eight countries within the single market. An investigation was prompted by whistle-blowing from Henkel, a German competitor (manufacturer of Persil) and so the investigation CYCLE began. Unilever was fined €104m and Procter & Gamble was fined €211.2m. Henkel was not WHITER THAN WHITE but under EU cartel rules, it avoided a hefty fine because of alerting the authorities to the price fixing scheme.

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Poor human capital in Portugal

Friday, March 25, 2011

A hat tip to Philippe Legrain for spotting this piece in the Wall Street Journal highlighting the chasm in educational outcomes in Portugal (Western Europe’s poorest nation) contrasted with other EU countries. Only 28% of Portuguese aged 25-64 have completed secondary school vs 85% in Germany and 91% in the Czech Republic. “Portugal must generate enough long-term economic growth to pay off its large debts. An unskilled work force makes that hard.” More here

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Timetric: Comparative prices in the EU single market

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

All twenty-seven nations of the EU are members of the single market. Seventeen countries have entered the Euro Area and share a common currency.  Under EU law, as an EU national, you cannot be charged a higher price than local residents when buying products or services anywhere else in the EU, unless the price difference is justified.

Price convergence shows the degree to which prices for goods and services in European Union Member States have moved together, or converged, and is an important indicator of the success of the internal market.

In contrast, price divergence shows the degree to which prices have moved apart. It is calculated by examining the coefficient of variation of the comparative price levels. The lower the coefficient, the greater is price convergence within the EU

Our Timetric chart tracks what has happened to comparative prices within the EU over the years. We see a gradual process of price convergence but there remain widespread and persistent price differences across Europe for similar / standardised products - from petrol to hotel rooms, from clothing to a meal out. I ask students if they can explain some of these price differences and if they can use cost and revenue curve analysis to illustrate them?

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EU Economics - Video Resources for Teaching

I will keep this blog updated with a selection of video clips relevant to the study of the EU - please check below for some links and embedded videos

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Timetric: Price convergence within the EU

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Has the growth and development of the European Union single market and the Euro accelerated a process of price convergence within the EU? Price convergence means that the gap in prices for the same good or service has come down and in theory, having one currency and an open market ought to bring down the extent of price variations. Our Timetric chart below tracks what has been happening to the price convergence indicator. A fall in the measure indicates a coming-together of average prices.

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EU Economics - Life at the jagged edge of the Euro Zone

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Paul Mason continues his journey through some of the countries inside the EU facing an economic crisis. Portugal is in recession, construction has slumped and the government is introducing fiscal austerity measures but they are keenly aware that the sovereign debt crisis is yet to hit the economy with full force. A vivid and colourful report from one of the BBC’s top reporters.

High taxes stimulate rise in smuggling of cigarettes

Sunday, February 06, 2011

One of the unintended consequences of the steep rise in the real price of cigarettes in the UK is the strong incentive to bring contraband cigarettes into the UK from elsewhere in the EU single market.

This Guardian article reports on the expected rise in smuggling as cigarette duties reach fresh highs in 2011. The average price of a pack of 20 cigarettes reached £6.29 in the UK last summer, compared with £2.80 in Spain and £1.57 in Poland.

5 Fresh Links: Videos to attract FDI

Friday, February 04, 2011

I am teaching European and Global context for A2 macro this term and one of the key topics is the economics of EU enlargement. The opportunities to attract inflows of direct investment is one of the major attractions for new EU countries as they enter the single market. Here is a selection of videos promoting FDI into a selection of European nations.

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EU Economics: Hopes for a low carbon future in Europe

Thursday, February 03, 2011

With EU carbon emissions market has closed since the middle of January after hackers stole €30m of permits the economics of a EU wide carbon tax has been given fresh prominence in recent weeks. Charles Hart evaluates the arguments for and against a tax on emissions in this super applied micro essay. After the essay there are some links to recent blog posts and other resources on carbon trading and carbon taxation.

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WTO finds Boeing guilty of using illegal subsidies

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

This is one of the longest running disputes in trade history. Europe and the US have been fighting for more than six years over each other’s subsidies for large passenger aircraft in the duopolistic battle between Boeing and Airbus. Now the World Trade Organisation has found that Boeing received at least $5bn (£3.1bn) in illegal subsidies and was only able to launch its 787 Dreamliner with such support. Airbus has als been found to be in breach of receiving illegal state aid. Reuters provides useful background here.

Firefox overtakes IE in the EU Browser Market

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Telegraph reports here that Mozilla’s Firefox has overtaken Internet Explorer as the preferred browser for internet users in Europe. And Google’s Chrome is fast gaining a strong foothold in this intensely competitive market. The market share data suggests an oligopoly but we know that despite the dominance of a small number of web browsers, the reality is that competition is fierce and millions of web users have their own quite strong preferences!

Source: StatCounter Global Stats - Browser Market Share

Lots to think about here in terms of economic efficiency - not least dynamic efficiency and innovation in the market.

And also the impact of competition policy in action .... as the article says at the end

“Since early 2010, Microsoft has offered millions of European customers that use its Windows software the option of using 12 different internet browsers. This followed an agreement in December 2009, when European Union regulators accepted Microsoft’s pledge to give consumers better access to rival browsers, ending a long antit-trust dispute.”

A hat tip to Ian Goff for spotting the article. If you want to keep an eye on what is happening to market share on a daily basis this is the link to the StatCounter site


Legal Cooperation between Businesses

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Not all instances of collusive behaviour are deemed to be illegal by the European Union Competition Authorities. Practices are not prohibited if the respective agreements “contribute to improving the production or distribution of goods or to promoting technical progress in a market.”

• Development of improved industry standards of production and safety which benefit the consumer

• Information sharing designed to give better information to consumers

• Research joint-ventures and know-how agreements which seek to promote innovative and inventive behaviour in a market. The EU has introduced a “R&D Block Exemption Regulation” for this

In December 2010 the EU Competition Commission introduced new guidelines on the types of ‘horizontal cooperation’ that is allowed under EU laws. And here is a good recent example - the development of and agreement on joint industry standards in Europe for mobile phone chargers which means that mobile and smartphone users will soon be able to use a standardised charger.

The common charger will make life easier for consumers, reduce waste (good for the environment) and benefit businesses who dont have to spend as much on developing their own charger technologies.

Apple, Emblaze Mobile, Huawei Technologies, LGE, Motorola, NEC, Nokia, Qualcomm, RIM, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, TCT Mobile (Alcatel), and Texas Instruments have all signed up to the agreement.


Links to articles on the EU Economy

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I have put together a listing of suggested reading / articles on different aspects of the economics of the EU. This is available for download below as a pdf file.

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EU Economy: Focus on Inflation

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The economic and financial affairs unit of the EU has produced this resource on inflation within the European Union. It covers the meaning and measurement of inflation, inflation expectations and some study notes on the consequences of inflation for people living inside the single market. It is available here.

Greece smoking ban

Friday, September 03, 2010

A new law has come into force this week in Greece banning smoking in enclosed public spaces and tobacco advertising.

It is estimated that more than 40% of Greek adults smoke - well above the EU’s average of 29% - which is perhaps why at a time of fiscal austerity, it is surprising/impressive that the Greek government have pursued this policy. Cigarettes bring in a significant amount of tax revenue (either via indirect or corporation taxes) which will be lost. But then maybe it will save a lot more money via its health bill. (or maybe they are just hoping people will flaunt the rules and collect fines!).

Having said this, this latest attempt to stop smokers, is its 4th attempt in a decade - following a tobacco ban in public places on July 1 of this year too. The demand for habit-forming goods is too inelastic to go away overnight…

Economics of the EU Revision - Carbon Taxes

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Revision notes on carbon taxation in an EU context

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Spain adds to the Euro’s woes…

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

As if having Greece going into meltdown was not enough for the euro currency to shoulder, Spain yesterday added to this burden… the Spanish government was forced to rescue one of its biggest regional banks: the central bank has taken operational control of Cajasur, which needs an urgent cash injection of €500m.
There has been a fresh bout of horizontal integrations announced in a bit to make their balance sheets more stable - Caja Mediterraneo, Grupo Cajastur, Caja Extremadura and Caja Cantabria want to form a bank with €135 billion in assets, to make it the country’s 5th largest lender.
This is all a time when the IMF has just delivered a bearish analysis on the Spanish economy:
“The challenges are severe: a dysfunctional labor market, the deflating property bubble, a large fiscal deficit, heavy private sector and external indebtedness,” the report said.
Do troubles for the euro know no end…?

A2 Economics Revision - Microeconomics of Labour Migration

Saturday, May 22, 2010

1) Explain the circumstances in which an economy may see a rise in net inward migration of labour (15 marks)
2) Evaluate the view that free movement of labour within the European Union improves the efficiency of British businesses (25 marks)

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EU Economics Common Terms and Acronyms

A selection of key terms and acronyms that students may find useful when studying the economics of the EU

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Unit 3 Micro: Efficiency and Price Intervention in Markets

Friday, May 21, 2010

In recent times the European Union Competition Commission introduced maximum prices for the roaming charges made by mobile phone service providers. These are the rates charged by one operator to another to enable its customers to make calls while visiting another country.

Evaluate the view that a policy of price capping for European Union mobile phone operators will lead to an improvement in consumer and producer welfare (25 marks)

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Greek junk status timeline

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

This informative interactive graphic from the FT shows the rapid rise in Greek government yields over the past year, resulting in yesterday’s downgrade to junk status.
When S&P warns holders of Greek debt that they only had an “average chance” of between 30% and 50% of getting their money back in the event of a debt restructuring or default, its going to have consequences…
One result of going junk (or sub-investment grade…) is that many financial institutions (including pension funds) are not allowed to hold such investment instruments, which will lead to a big sell-off of these, causing the yields to rise further.
As the fears of contagion spread, Portugal was also downgraded and the Vix index, a measure of “fear” in the US stock market, rose by more than 30 per cent, its biggest one-day jump since the height of the financial crisis in October 2008.
The moves highlighted the potential that the Greek crisis – the result of too large a debt load and expectations that it may default or have to restructure that debt – could spread and have knock-on effects on the global economy.
In this month’s edition of Economax, there is an in-depth article on Greece’s fiscal crisis.

Revision Download - European Economy 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Here is a free revision download for teachers and students who wish to update their understanding of key topics and issues in the European Union…

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Revision Presentation - EU & the Euro Debate

Monday, February 22, 2010

This revised and extended revision presentation examines the debate about Europe’s Single Currency.

Launch revision presentation on EU & The Euro Debate

Download slide handouts (pdf)

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Interactive guide to selected EU economic data

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Telegraph website has a useful interactive guide to a selection of data on member countries inside the European Union. Our chart shows indices for GDP and there is also information the allocation of EU spending by country, population size and density.

Sugar prices and production and investment incentives

Friday, October 23, 2009

World sugar prices are close to a 30 year high with values on the Chicago mercantile exchange hovering just under $30c per pound. For countries whose sugar exports account for a large proportion of their export earnings, the steep increase in world prices has brought about an improvement in their terms of trade and - because demand for many foodstuffs is price inelastic, a favourable change in their balance of trade. A good example of this is the African country of Mozambique, a nation almost destroyed by a long running civil war that eventually ended in the early 1990s but which has also been hit in recent years by severes drought hit many central and southern parts of the country, including previously flood-stricken areas. And where half of the population must survive on less than $1 a day.

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Norway - your guys take a lot of beating!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Roy Hattersley makes a rare appearance in the economics blog today. He has an interesting piece in The Times on the relative prosperity of Norway - a country that lies outside the European Union but which has negotiated access to the EU single market. With very low unemployment (of less than 3% of the labour force, super high per capita incomes, a sovereign wealth fund worth more than £250bn and continued strong revenues from oil exports, Norway is unlikely to test the waters of EU membership anytime soon. A good piece for students of economic integration in the EU.

Croatia and Iceland look to be in front line for EU entry

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Croatian fans will be crying into their beers tonight with the news that they have failed to qualify for South Africa 2010. But their politicians seem to be making decent progress along the road to joining the European family of nations. The latest report on the progress made by countries seeking membership of the European Union suggests that Iceland and Croatia will be next in line to enter the EU single market. There is a report here from the Financial Times. And this article from the BBC reports the EU Enlargement Commissioner as saying that Croatia should complete entry talks next year.

Here are some links to previous blogs on EU enlargement

Another Brussels lightbulb moment

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A ban on traditional lightbulbs imposed by Brussels last year and adopted by the UK for implementation in 2010 is to be extended to cover spotlights and downlighters, an read more...»

Iceland votes to join the EU

Monday, July 20, 2009

Rocked by a financial crisis which led to the collapse of its currency and banking system, Iceland’s parliament has voted narrowly in favour of seeking accession into the European Union. This process is likely to take around 18 months, the EU is keen to fast-track Iceland into the single market. One of the main stumbling blocks will be negotiations over fishing quota and catch rules for the EU fishing industry within Iceland’s territorial waters.  Fish and seafood accounted for 37% of Iceland’s exports in 2008. Will Icelandic accession be a great catch for the European Union?

Guardian: Will Iceland make it into the EU?

Europe Revision: Single Market

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Revision notes on aspects of the EU single market

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EU single market creaks under the pressure of the recession

Monday, June 01, 2009

Wolfgang Munchau has an important comment article on the fragility of the EU single market in todays Financial Times.

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The EU - Positives from the Polish Perspective

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


BBC reporter Jonny Dymond is travelling through the European Union in advance of the elections next month gathering opinions and comment from people in different member states. Monday’s report from Poland makes interesting reading as it gives a positive view of the single market from the point of view of one of the newer member states, which could provide some useful points for evaluation in the AQA ECN4 paper.

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European Economy - Free Revision Update for 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Here is a free revision update guide for students preparing for A2 Economics exams this summer….

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Norway - Shallower Recession and Better Placed

Monday, May 18, 2009

According to some measures, Norway has the strongest currency in the world. Outside of the EU but inside the single market, Norway is often held up as a example of a path that the UK might follow if relations with the rest of the ever broke down irrevocably. An unlikely scenario? Yes, and there are also big differences in the structure of the Norwegian economy compared to ours.

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