The British are not allowed to sign a separate Free Trade agreement with Norway until after they have left the EU.
EU is prohibiting the United Kingdom from negotiating bilateral Free Trade agreements with third countries as long as Britain remains a member of the union.
In plain language, this means there will be no separate agreement between Norway and the UK on the day the British exit the EU.
– We will accept that , said Prime Minister Erna Solberg .
– The British cannot negotiate with Norway and others whilst simoultaneously negotiating how they will exit the EU, ‘she states.
Talks are already underway
In recent weeks, the EU has repeatedly found it necessary to remind the British and their interlocutors about this ban.
The reason is that Britain has already started dialogues with Norway, the US and several other countries about how trade relations could look after Brexit.
This has apparently annoyed the EU, pointing out that only the European Commission has the right to negotiate Free Trade agreements on behalf of EU member states.
– It is not possible to start clean negotiations until after Britain has left the EU. Both us and the United Kingdom are tied here, explains Europe Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen.
– But that does not mean that one cannot talk, interact, exchange information and hold exploratory talks, he said.
From the menu to placing an order
From the European Commission, the message has been that the British people can discuss whatever they want with whomever they want, but that discussions cannot turn into negotiations.
This follows from the provisions laid down in Article 3 of the Treaty of European Union statutes.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini demanded “respect” for these rules recently when she visited the United States last week.
Journalists have repeatedly tried to get the European Commission to explain exactly what the limits for talks are, but without getting any wiser.
– I would say that to talk is to express what you want that to be on the menu, whilst negotiations are to order the food, said European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schin in an effort to clarify.
No text on the table
From what NTB understands, there has not been any specific proposals for agreements on the table in talks between the UK and Norway. Norway’s position is that it is best to “play clean”.
How far the British wants to go in the discussions, remains to be seen.
At best, Britain can put in place transitional arrangements with the EU which Norway can take part in via the EEA Agreement.
But the British could also end up leaving the EU without having any agreement in place. Then it will be the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) which will apply, which can be very disadvantageous for Norway.
Source: NTB scanpix / Norway Today