There is much trumpeting today of the UK concluding a free trade agreement with Norway, Iceland and Lichstenstein. Given these three countries are European Economic Area members, I suspect the net additional benefit over the situation prior to Brexit is rather limited, if any for the UK.
However, it is framed a bit differently elsewhere! Can you spot the key factor missing from UK coverage – unless you know differently?
“This free trade agreement seeks to safeguard as close trade relations as possible following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Economic Area (EEA).”
And then this: “The EEA EFTA States–UK free trade agreement is an ambitious, progressive and comprehensive free trade agreement. It covers the full range of trade in goods, services and investment, digital trade, capital movements, government procurement, intellectual property, competition, subsidies, small and medium sized enterprises, good regulatory practices and regulatory cooperation, recognition of professional qualifications, trade and sustainable development. It also encompasses legal and horizontal issues including dispute settlement.”
And how difficult was this to conclude? “Negotiations towards the comprehensive free trade agreement between the two sides commenced in September 2020. Due to a tight timeframe and urgency the negotiations were conducted simultaneously in all respective substance areas, with regular meetings between Chief negotiators. As a result of the unprecedented social-distancing measures and travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the negotiation teams from the UK, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway WITH SUPPORT FROM THE EFTA Secretariat, met solely via video conferencing throughout the negotiating period.” (my emphasis)
So this is how ‘comprehensively’ and easily (since just last September) a FTA can be agreed by Westminster with, yes EFTA members! Worth remembering when the usual Better Together scares are recycled concerning trade relations between an independent Scotland and the Kingdom of Southern Britain and NI.