Sam Lowe, senior research fellow … As of 1 February, the EEA comprises of 27* EU Member States and the three EEA EFTA States – Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Membership of the EEA is a consequence of membership of the European Union. In a joint statement, the Governments of the UK, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein said: Any State that becomes a member of EFTA has an obligation to apply to become a party to EFTA’s existing free trade agreements according to Article 56 of the EFTA Convention. EFTA does not envisage political integration. The UK quit EFTA in 1972 but has the option of rejoining the group and then becoming part of the EEA as an EFTA member. Article 126 of the Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and the UK provides for a transition period until 31 December 2020. The European Economic Area (EEA) was established by the EEA Agreement, which entered into force in 1994. Liechtenstein joined the EFTA in 1991 (previously its interests had been represented by Switzerland). The UK would require the consent of the other EFTA states to join. Apart from the various dialogues and negotiations, there has also been considerable interest from the UK for information about EFTA and the EEA. If the UK were to apply to join EFTA, how would the EFTA States respond? Decisions by the EEA Council are taken by consensus between all EU Member States on the one hand and the three EEA EFTA States - Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway - on the other. The EFTA Council is the highest governing body of EFTA, where the four EFTA States – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland – meet at ambassadorial or ministerial level. The possibility of rejoining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) after leaving the European Union might be something Britain ought to consider as Iceland’s Foreign Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson suggested last year. The four EFTA States are competitive in several sectors vital to the global economy and score among the highest in the world in competitiveness, wealth creation per inhabitant, life expectancy and quality of life. *Article 126 of the Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and the UK provides for a transition period until 31 December 2020 whereby the UK will continue to be treated as an EEA State. These agreements will be in place until a new FTA is negotiated and enters into force. The European Union (EU) has confirmed that travellers from the United Kingdom will need to register with the new ETIAS system from 2022. EFTA membership does not preclude from entering into a customs arrangement with the EU; existing EFTA countries govern their relation to the EU through different instruments. The suggestion that the UK could join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) or European Economic Area (EEA) for a transition period, or perhaps for good, is once again doing the rounds in Westminster. What will be the UK-EFTA trade relationship after the transition period? “It would be wrong to flag a veto or no veto now, and I believe anyway that we will find good solutions to these problems,” Solberg said. Alongside being members of EFTA, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein also have free movement of goods, services and people with the 28-nation EU. The core of these rules relates to the free movement of goods, capital, services and persons throughout the 30* EEA States. It would require new negotiation guidelines to be agreed by the EU27 and ratification by the UK, all the EFTA states, and all EU member states. The funding period covering 2014-2021 has a total financial envelope of approximately EUR 400 million per year. According to Article 128 of the EEA Agreement, “any European State becoming a member of the Community shall, and the Swiss Confederation or any European State becoming a member of EFTA may, apply to become a party to this Agreement. “Then all must be prepared for anything, if it turns out that Britain joins EFTA,” she said. The United Kingdom and Denmark joined the EEC in 1973 and hence ceased to be EFTA members. On whether this would initially require Scotland to join EFTA, she said, "It may be by necessity but we don't want that. Do EFTA States have access to the Single Market? Prime Minister Theresa May is undecided about her country’s future role in Europe after Britons voted to leave the European Union in a June referendum. In addition, the EEA Agreement covers horizontal areas such as social policy, consumer protection, environment, company law, statistics, tourism and culture. There is particularly close collaboration among the three EEA EFTA States at all levels, both in the regular meetings of official bodies such as the Standing Committee, and more frequently in dedicated ad hoc settings, also at ministerial level. Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles. Austria, Sweden, and Finland joined the EU in 1995 and thus ceased to be EFTA members. Yes, the EFTA States are not obliged by the EFTA Convention to conclude preferential trade agreements as a group. In addition to provisions on citizen rights, the Separation Agreement covers other separation issues – such as goods placed on the market before the end of the transition period, IPR, ongoing police and judicial cooperation, judicial procedures, data protection, and public procurement - and institutional provisions. That variable picture has parallels within the EU, where Germany has held out the prospect of granting Britain a special status in its post-Brexit relationship while France has pushed for a more hardline approach. They maintain the full right to enter into bilateral third-country arrangements. If the United Kingdom were to re-join EFTA, would it also become party to EFTA’s worldwide free trade agreements? +32 22861 719 (office)+32 473 334 920 (mobile), Frequently asked questions on EFTA, the EEA, EFTA membership and Brexit, Trade and Sustainable Development in FTAs. All quotes delayed a minimum of 15 minutes. Britain was a founding member of Efta in 1960, a free trade organisation that was an appendage to the European Economic Community, the forerunner of the … Solberg also said in an interview with Reuters that Britain’s 65 million people would radically change EFTA, which now comprises Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein with a combined population of just 14 million. She said her Conservative Party was in “continuous dialogue” with their peers across the North Sea led by May, whose first weeks in office have been dominated by a debate over the terms and timing of Britain’s divorce from the EU. Art. All EFTA States are engaging in bilateral dialogue with the UK with the aim to maintain close economic and trade relations after the country has left the EU. Prime Minister Theresa May is undecided about her country’s future role in Europe after Britons voted to leave the European Union in a June referendum. Each EFTA State has one vote at the EFTA Council and their unanimous consent would be required for the UK to re-join EFTA. What is EFTA doing to prepare for a future trade relationship with the United Kingdom? Overall, Solberg’s comments were less skeptical about British membership than shortly after Britain’s vote, when she stressed that it would “change the balance of power in EFTA”. What is the European Economic Area – EEA? All relevant Internal Market legislation is integrated into the EEA Agreement so that it applies throughout the whole of the EEA. These contributions are added to the EU budget, increasing the total financial envelopes of the programmes and agencies in question. Not everyone is satisfied, but enough people in both the Remain and Leave camps are satisfied enough with the compromise to take most of the heat out of the debate. 56.3 of the EFTA Convention states that a new EFTA Member State “shall apply to become a party to the free trade agreements between the Member States on the one hand and third states, unions of states or international organisations on the other.” As a member of a customs union, a country acceding to EFTA could not comply with this obligation. “It’s easy to see some advantages of British membership. The EEA Agreement does not cover EU common agriculture and fisheries policies, although it contains provisions on trade in agricultural and fish products. Can the EFTA Member States also sign bilateral free trade agreements? The EFTA agreement requires accession to the four freedoms of persons, goods, services and capital. The United Kingdom was a member of the European Economic Area from 1 January 1994 to 31 December 2020, following the coming into force of the 1992 EEA Agreement. First, the EEA EFTA States contribute towards reducing economic and social disparities in the EEA through the EEA Grants. It is not timely to prejudge what the outcome would be as EFTA remains open to examining all options to safeguard the interests of its Member States. EFTA explains on its website that it was founded by the following seven countries: Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. One option could be to join EFTA, which Britain helped found but quit to enter the EU in 1973, though it is far from clear that is a path that Britain wants to follow. We go ahead, join EFTA and the EEA. Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. As the EEA Agreement does not establish a common commercial or a trade policy, this means that the trade relationship between the EEA EFTA States and the UK after the transition period will have to be agreed in negotiations between the EEA EFTA States and the UK. By re-joining EFTA, the UK would not only ensure its continuance in the EEA, but it would also boost EFTA’s global profile and provide a counterbalance to the EU on the continent. Writing by Alister Doyle; editing by John Stonestreet. If UK was to join EFTA, it could not readily enter its own trade agreements. ). These contributions are not managed by the EU, but by the EFTA Financial Mechanism Office in collaboration with the beneficiary countries. Membership of EFTA, in addition to inherent benefits, would allow the UK to participate in the benefits and burdens of the EEA as a transitional arrangement without the need to secure […] “Drop in EU regulations applicable to UK, as of January 2011 100,000+ EU instructions applied to the UK. What is not covered by the EEA Agreement? If the United Kingdom remains in a customs union with the EU, could it still join EFTA? As the largest EFTA country (about 60% of EFTA GDP), EFTA membership offered little compensation to UK exporters for the loss of access to traditional markets now inside the EEC. The Separation Agreement mirrors the relevant parts of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement and secures the rights of EEA EFTA and UK citizens that are already residing or working in the EEA EFTA States or the UK, respectively. Whether the UK agrees a ‘Free Trade Agreement’ with the EU or not, there are many reasons why re-joining EFTA would benefit the UK (and EFTA! They all apply the provisions of the relevant Acquis. “Some countries will probably think it’s fine to have a free trade deal with us (EFTA), but won’t necessarily think that it’s equally simple to have a free trade deal with Britain,” she said. She said it was important for all countries to set out their national interests in the debate. This is based on common rules and equal conditions of competition and provides for the adequate means of enforcement at the judicial level. Once becoming an EFTA member, the UK will then have to negotiate an EEA accession treaty with the 31 entities which are members of the EEA: the EU, its 27 member States and the three EEA EFTA members. The United Kingdom (UK) ceased to be a Contracting Party to the EEA Agreement after its withdrawal from the EU on 31 January 2020. Since Switzerland is an EFTA Member State, but not a part of the EEA, what will be the future trade relationship between Switzerland and the United Kingdom? Discussions with the UK on the implications of its withdrawal from the EU for EEA EFTA-UK relations were launched in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit referendum. This agreement largely mirrors the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated with the EU. Second, the EEA EFTA States contribute towards the EU programmes and agencies that they participate in on the basis of the EEA Agreement. Its objective is to extend the Internal Market of the EU to the three participating EFTA States creating a homogeneous European Economic Area. A global UK is a UK engaged with the continent of Europe as well as the Commonwealth, the US and Asia. Currently, the EFTA States together have 29 FTAs in force or awaiting ratification covering 40 partner countries worldwide (outside Europe). A UK membership would therefore mean better market access in the UK for these products than the current EFTA States have today. This proposal is not only ill-informed, it … This includes the appointment of national coordinators at senior officials’ level and the establishment of inter-departmental working groups. The United Kingdom (UK) ceased to be a Contracting Party to the EEA Agreement after its withdrawal from the EU on 31 January 2020. If the United Kingdom were to re-join EFTA, would it automatically become party to the EEA Agreement? The Parties could agree to proceed to both negotiations at the same time. Accordingly, the rights and obligations contained in the EEA Agreement continue to apply between the UK and the EEA EFTA States until 31 December 2020. She said that “by necessity”, in the event of a vote to break-up the UK, Scotland might have to pursue membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), … It follows from Article 129 of the Withdrawal Agreement that, during the transition period, the UK shall be bound by the obligations stemming from the international agreements concluded by the EU, including the EEA Agreement. What is the transition period and what does it mean for the UK’s relations with the EEA EFTA States? Information about the EFTA Member States: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Anthony Speaight QC and a colleague have published a paper arguing that the UK could secure advantage by making an application to re-join EFTA. We have to set that out at the time because there are still some uncertainties, many uncertainties, around the Brexit process." Switzerland is outside that deal. However, if the UK were to seek to re-join EFTA, EFTA Member States would carefully examine the application. Migration –The EFTA Convention guarantees the free movement of people between the Member States. To join the EFTA, the UK will need to gain the approval of current members, i.e. UK: Reunited The benefits of EFTA include the Irish border – crucial for our United Kingdom – agriculture, business supply chains and the ability to deliver services in the EU. The EFTA States consult among themselves regularly in the EFTA Council and at ministerial level, as well as at dedicated meetings of national coordinators at senior officials’ level. While membership of EFTA would grant Britain access to dozens of free trade agreements EFTA has already concluded with countries around the world it would not, … Brexit lifeline BOMBSHELL: Norway says UK CAN join the EFTA if EU trade becomes impossible BRITAIN could still join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) as a stop-gap measure if … It could then participate in the EEA agreement, a dynamic arrangement bringing together the … These would have to be negotiated for any new member state as part of the accession process. After the transition period has ended, the UK will be a third country in terms of the EEA Agreement. In 1972, each EFTA State negotiated bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) with the EEC. The EFTA Secretariat is not involved in the management of the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU. For the current 2014-2020 EU multiannual budget period, the total EEA EFTA contribution to EU programmes and agencies is approximately EUR 460 million per year. Sectors that stand to benefit include key industries like car manufacturing, science and technology, financial services, chemicals, and many more. What does the EFTA Convention say about new member states? What is EFTA and how is it different from the EU? However, all of the four EFTA States participate in Schengen and Dublin through bilateral agreements. How will the United Kingdom’s departure from the EU impact EEA EFTA and UK citizens that are already residing or working in the EEA EFTA States or the United Kingdom? Nevertheless, during the transition period the UK will continue to be treated as an EEA State (see below). If the United Kingdom were to re-join EFTA, how would it affect: Fisheries –The EFTA Convention guarantees free trade in fish and other maritime products between the Member States. So why not join EFTA and then accede to the EEA Agreement in the normal course? This includes, for example, provisions on the free movement of persons between all of the EFTA States. Following requests from the UK, representatives from the EFTA States and the Secretariat have met with members of various committees of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, as well as from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Schengen is not a part of the EEA Agreement. Currently the beneficiary states include Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Moreover, to enter into force, they would involve a ratification … Only EU or EFTA members can currently become members of the EEA, meaning if Britain wants to secure full access to the single … It does not entail a customs union, nor does it include a common trade policy, common foreign and security policy, justice and home affairs, harmonised taxation or the economic and monetary union. UK economy eventually recovers (though possibly not under Labour especially if Corbyn is in charge), but by 2030 things have largely settled down. This online visa waiver system is set to be an entry requirement for short-term visitors from visa-exempt countries like the UK. A request for membership of EFTA would be considered by the EFTA Council,  where decisions are taken by consensus. If an independent Scotland decided to join EFTA, it would have to apply for accession to the EFTA Council which is composed of the heads of the permanent delegations to EFTA. Since 1994, the EFTA Secretariat has assisted Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway in the management of the EEA Agreement. How do the EEA EFTA States contribute financially to the EU? In a context of relatively poor domestic economic performance, this situation prompted the UK government to submit a first application to join the EEC in 1961. EFTA4UK campaigns for the UK to rejoin the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Again this is not an off-the-shelf model. The financial contributions of the EEA EFTA States to the EU related to the EEA Agreement are twofold. The UK, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein have today signed the EEA EFTA Separation Agreement. Due to Liechtenstein’s participation in the Swiss customs territory, parts of these agreements have also been extended to Liechtenstein. This means that Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland would have to agree to the UK joining EFTA. This would also apply between the UK and the current EFTA States in the event of a UK membership in EFTA. It does not issue legislation, nor does it establish a customs union. See here for a complete list of exchanges and delays. Switzerland set up several dialogues with the UK: (1) a so-called Continuity Dialogue which deals with horizontal issues and oversees progress in each area, and (2) Specific Dialogues in areas currently covered by the Swiss/EU agreements. In order to ensure equal conditions of competition throughout the EEA, the EEA Agreement mirrors the competition and state aid rules of the EU treaties. Since 2001, the EFTA Convention has been updated continually in order to align its content with the Swiss-EU bilateral agreements and the EEA Agreement. Not automatically, as each EFTA State decides on its own whether it applies to be party to the EEA Agreement or not. ARENDAL, Norway (Reuters) - Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said she saw some advantages if Britain joined the four-nation European Free Trade Association (EFTA) after quitting the EU, qualifying past doubts about British membership. The UK government has clearly indicated that it does not intend to apply for membership of EFTA. In addition to the EEA Grants, Norway has funded a parallel scheme since 2004 – the Norway Grants. EFTA states are not part of the EU Customs Union as outlined above. Portugal also left EFTA for the European Community in 1986. The EEA EFTA States also have close bilateral contacts with EU institutions, both at ministerial level and at the level of senior officials and experts. According to Article 56 of the EFTA Convention, “any State may accede to the Convention provided that the EFTA Council decides to approve its accession, on such terms and conditions as may be set out in that decision.”. EFTA’s first objective was to liberalise trade between its Member States. There is an ongoing close dialogue between the EEA EFTA States and the EU within the EEA Council and the EEA Joint Committee concerning the implications of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU for the EEA Agreement. The four EFTA States’ administrations have set up their own internal structures where work is not only focussed on the consequences of Brexit but also on building a new trade relationship with the UK. All of our FTAs include provisions that regulate the accession to the FTA in question, stipulating that terms and conditions have to be agreed upon by the acceding Party and all existing Parties to the FTA. This follows from the two-pillar structure and Article 126 of the EEA Agreement, which states that the EEA Agreement applies to the territory of … EFTA has about 30 free trade deals with nations including Canada, Chile, Morocco and Singapore. It’s a big country with a big economy,” Solberg said. But that benefit of more clout also means Britain might demand conditions that would mainly help it - rather than its putative EFTA partners - when negotiating trade deals. There are significant reasons why the UK is unlikely to join EFTA. This follows from the two-pillar structure and Article 126 of the EEA Agreement, which states that the EEA Agreement applies to the territory of the EU and the three EEA EFTA States. “I don’t think that the EFTA path is necessarily the way Britain should be interested in going,” she said. Britain exported food and drink worth 18 billion pounds ($24 billion) in 2015 while Norway imposes high import barriers to protect farmers in a country that stretches into the Arctic. The accession of a new Member State to our FTAs can only be negotiated with the consent of the other Party or Parties to the agreement. Switzerland also has regular exchanges with the EU and its Member States. Each Member State is represented and decisions are taken by consensus. Although the UK government has to date simply refused, the ... Scotland might find it preferable to join EFTA, initially at least. Agriculture – When it comes to agriculture, the EFTA Convention has specific commitments for market access in agriculture for each Member State. It also provides for participation in EU programmes such as those for research and education. The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is an intergovernmental organisation, established in 1960 by the EFTA Convention for the promotion of free trade and economic integration between its Member States (today Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), within Europe and globally. 4,179 applied to EFTA. Within EFTA, all member countries have to approve new members, giving each a theoretical veto. Solberg cited farming as one example of a possible conflict of interest. Accession Treaties for EFTA and EEA cannot be signed before Brexit. The EEA Agreement guarantees equal rights and obligations within the Internal Market for individuals and economic operators in the EEA. How will the United Kingdom’s departure from the EU affect its membership in the EEA? It shall address its application to the EEA Council.” The EEA Council takes political decisions leading to the amendment of the EEA Agreement, including the possible enlargement of the EEA. Norway voted against joining the EU because of the impact it would have on its fishing industry, and Scotland is in quite a similar position. This is significant, given that total UK trade with the EEA EFTA states amounted to almost £30bn in 2017. The EEA EFTA States have agreed to treat the UK as an EU Member State during this period. Switzerland and the UK have concluded and signed several agreements in areas including trade, migration, air services, road transport, financial services and citizens´ rights. The worst case scenario is that we leave the EU as part of the UK, join EFTA as a holding position and then negotiate EU membership from there. The EFTA States are engaged in numerous processes with the aim to maintain trade relations with the UK as close possible. The EEA EFTA States and the UK signed a Separation Agreement on the 28 January 2020. The UK would withdraw from the EU and join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). If EFTA were to receive a membership application from the UK – which could only join once it had withdrawn from the EU – and the EFTA states agreed to … The EFTA Convention from January 1960 states that any country may join EFTA “provided that the EFTA Council decides to approve its accession”. The UK ceased to be a Contracting Party to the EEA Agreement after its withdrawal from the EU on 31 January 2020, as it was a member of the EEA by … Efta has about 30 free trade agreements European Union advantages of British membership theoretical veto EFTA. 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