LONDON: Britain said Thursday it had agreed a provisional trade deal with Norway, Switzerland and two other non-EU partners to ensure continuity after its Brexit divorce from the European Union.
The UK government said its arrangement with the European Free Trade Association — which also includes Iceland and Liechtenstein — would keep “the vast majority” of their trade tariff-free on January 1.
The EFTA countries are outside the EU. Three of them pay to ensure access to the bloc’s single market under an overarching partnership called the European Economic Area (EEA). Switzerland has its own patchwork of deals with the EU.
Britain, after this year, will lie outside the single market but is engaged in tough talks with Brussels for a new trading partnership.
“We have agreed with the EEA-EFTA states that we will put in place a continuity deal to ensure that trade flows continue at the end of the year,” a source at the UK’s Department for International Trade told AFP.
“This is a temporary arrangement whilst we finalise the more ambitious FTA we are negotiating,” the source said, claiming “excellent progress” towards a free trade agreement with the EFTA bloc next year.
Norway on Wednesday confirmed a temporary trade pact with Britain to take effect on January 1, after the two countries last month agreed a side deal on fishing rights.
Fisheries were one of the main stumbling blocks holding up a UK-EU deal as talks resumed on Thursday. If no deal is done, Britain and the EU will revert to more onerous trading terms governed by the World Trade Organization.