Norway and Switzerland have to accept EU laws despite not being members in order to trade with it.
This is about right. Both Norway and Switzerland keep out of some EU activities, such as the Common Agricultural Policy. But they bring many of their laws into line with EU rules, on the single market in particular. Norway incorporates single market rules as they’re made, while Switzerland accepts EU law from time to time in return for more market access.
“The government has published an analysis of the UK's options if it left the EU… the document says Norway and Switzerland's trading arrangements outside the EU require them to… be subject to other EU laws.”
Norway and Switzerland aren’t members of the European Union. But they both access the single market.
This does involve accepting rules set by the EU.
Norway has full access to the single market, and continuously changes its laws about it as and when they’re changed by the EU. Switzerland has more limited access, and has to accept new chunks of EU law only if it negotiates more access.
ManyLeavecampaigners say that the UK could negotiate its own unique deal with the EU if we left, better than what Norway or Switzerland have.
EU rules in Norway
Norway has to abide by EU rules that it doesn't formally decide, as part of the European Economic Area. This extends the EU single market to Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein without making them EU members.
A major report for the Norwegian government, called “Outside and Inside”, has said that "Norway is in practice bound to adopt EU policies and rules on a broad range of issues without being a member and without voting rights".
Norway doesn't get to help make the rules it "downloads", the way EU member countries do. But it can try to influence them from the outside.
Norway has “plenty” of opportunities to make its voice heard when the EU makes decisions, a 2015 paper for the think tank Civitas argues. In particular, it can try to influence proposed laws at an early stage.
Civitas also points to the fact that Norway can in theory refuse to apply EU laws in extreme cases, although others say this is “politically unusable”. In 2011 the Norwegian government said that it would use this power over an EU postal directive. It held off from passing this law until 2013 when a new government decided to reverse this decision.
In much the same way, our own Parliament could pass a law explicitly going against EU rules, but there would likely be political consequences.
The House of Commons Library, in its research on the subject, concludes that for all that Norway can “attend and talk at various meetings”, it has “little say”.
Norway also takes part in EU programmes beyond the single market, such as the Schengen passport-free area and police cooperation.
“An independent study commissioned by the Norwegian Government in 2012 calculated that, in return for its access to the EU market, Norway has had to incorporate approximately three-quarters of all EU laws into its own domestic legislation”.
This is a reference to the Outside and Inside report. It looked across the various ways that Norway cooperates with the EU—in the single market, energy, environment, science, etc.
While emphasising that this isn’t an exact calculation, it concluded that Norway is roughly three quarters integrated into the EU compared to a typical EU member country.
This is put differently in the introduction translated into English, which says that:
“Norway has incorporated approximately three-quarters of all EU legislative acts into Norwegian legislation”.