EU insiders told Politico Theresa May’s nation may be accepted into the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) until a permanent model is established – which would benefit Brussels members, but not necessarily Britain.Michel Barnier’s team allegedly floated the idea of a zero-tariff interim deal to allow the continued trade of good.
This would mean German exports, such as cars would be able to be brought into Britain easily – but when it comes to the UK exports that would be another story.
The deal would protect goods – but not services – Britain’s biggest seller.
Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland trade with the EU under EFTA.
GETTY Trade talks: EU could suggest Britain joins EFTA until deal made
GETTY Nigel Farage with Michel Barnier as EU attempts to offer ‘pan B’ to Britain
With temporary membership the UK could apply for membership in the European Economic Area (EEA) – and gain free access the EU’s single market.The ‘Norway model’ as it is known, would keep Britain under the EU umbrella.
One European diplomat told Politico: “It’s an interim solution that causes the smallest possible disturbance for business on both sides of the Channel.”
However, if Theresa May is heading for a hard Brexit the idea does not seem feasible.By accepting the offer Britain would need to keep the four founding EU freedoms – including the movement of people.
And it is by no means free – Britain would need to pay for access to the market.
But May’s nation would be able to strike trade deals elsewhere.
Within the group Norway paid £1.53billion (€1.3bn) to the EU between 2014 and 2021.
Peter Chase, of the US German Marshall Fund said he was concerned there is little point joining another treaty with the intention of leaving again.He said: “Bear in mind that in order to do this, treaties will need to be signed and ratified.
“It will be going to a lot of effort … Right now the UK is unilaterally terminating its relationship with the other 27 member states of the EU.
“Is it really going to go into another treaty and terminate that a few years down the line?”
Some members are interested in accepting the UK but there have been old fears the economy is too large and the UK would end up dictating on major decisions.
Others were more positive.
GETTY Prime Minister Theresa May has not revealed what the British Brexit team will say on trade
Oda Helen Sletnes, Norway’s ambassador to the EU said: “We would maintain an open-minded stance in the event of an application for EFTA membership.“Overall, it is in Norway’s interest to maintain as close trade policy cooperation with the U.K. as possible, with as good a level of access to the British market as possible.”
EFTA spokesman Thorfinnur Omarsson said: “The UK was a founding member of EFTA and remained therein for some 12 years [until 1972], so you can imagine it probably wouldn’t take too long for them to be readmitted as a member.”
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