The UK and the EEA – Is there a Future Together? -Report
The week following our eventdiscussing No Deal border scenarios and their impact, we welcomed back over 25members to listen to EEA/EFTA experts: Sven Norberg, Kreab, CatherineHowdle, EFTA Surveillance Authority and Andri Lúthersson, EFTA speaking onwhat the differences are between the EEA and EFTA, what the possibilities arefor the UK joining and how the dynamics of the EEA/EFTA would change if the UKwere to join.
The European Free TradeAssociation (EFTA) was created in 1960 following the formation EuropeanEconomic Community (EEC). As both blocs developed, they began to work together,with the first FTAs agreed with the EFTA states in 1973, and a single marketagreement following in the mid-1980’s. This led to the creation of the EuropeanEconomic Area (EEA), which features all EU member states and 3 EFTA states(Lichtenstein, Norway and Iceland). Switzerland has its own bilateral tradeagreement with the EU.
EFTA is significantly smallerthan the EU, with only 4 member states, Switzerland, Norway, Lichtenstein andIceland. Unlike the EU, ETFA states are able to make their own bilateral tradeagreements, however, they do often coordinate on trade policy. The keydifference between EU and EFTA states is key as EFTA states do not participatein the EU Common Agricultural Policy or the Common Fisheries Policy. EFTA’smain aim is to coordinate trade and economic relations, not to be part of aunion with common laws, which is also a significant difference to the EU. Inaddition, both blocs have their own judicial systems; the EU with the ECJ andEFTA with the EFTA court and the EFTA Surveillance Authority.
Both organisations work closelytogether in EU committees and agencies. ETFA states are not a part of EUcommittees, but they do have an advisory role and are able to influencedecisions to some extent.
With the UK having strongeconomic relations with EFTA/EEA states, it seems as though it would bepossible for the UK to join. EFTA states trade €70bn per year with the UK andEFTA states are the UK’s third largest export market. However, there areseveral obstacles before this would be possible. Firstly, the UK’s economy issignificantly larger than Norway’s (largest EFTA economy). This means that thepower dynamics of EFTA would change significantly, as smaller EFTA states mayfear the loss of influence as the UK is such a large player and in order forthe UK to become a member of EFTA, all states must provide consent. Inaddition, the UK will have to abide by the freedom of movement laws that arealigned with the EU. Politically, this could have a major impact on the UKgovernment who have stated that they wish to end the freedom of movementfollowing the 2016 referendum.
Although, for many, the UKjoining EFTA/EEA would be hugely beneficial to businesses and significantlyless damaging to the economy than a ‘harder Brexit’. The UK would still be ableto trade with the EU in a similar fashion as it would abide by the singlemarket laws. Furthermore, the UK would be able to make its own bilateral tradedeals with other nations, something that is a key focus for many ‘Brexiteers’.Moreover, the UK, like other EFTA states, would have influence on agencies andkey decisions and thus maintain a strong working relationship with the EU. Thiswould be extremely important in many fields where the UK is a large player,such as the pharmaceutical and fishing industries.
One of the main conclusions thatcould be drawn from the discussion was that there could in fact be a futuretogether for the UK and the EEA. Many would argue that it would be the besttype of exit that the UK could have, which maintains strong ties with the EUand does not lead to the UK crashing out and suffering from a political andeconomic collapse. Furthermore, businesses and citizens will have courts wherethey can settle disputes that they would find difficult to do in othercircumstances.
Senior Advisor | KREAB
Dr. Sven Norberg is a former Swedish Judge of Appeal, who was Director in DG Competition of the European Commission (1995-2005). Before that he was Judge of the EFTA Court (1994 and 1995). This followed 12 years as Director Legal Affairs in the EFTA Secretariat, during which period he inter alia was in charge of all legal and institutional issues under the negotiations on the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA). Before joining the EFTA he was Permanent Secretary and Chief Legal Officer in the Swedish Ministry of Trade and Commerce. He is the author of numerous articles and books on the EU and the EEA, incl. with others The European Economic Area - EEA Law - A Commentary on the EEA Agreement (Kluwer 1993) He is also a Member of the Editorial Boards of the Europarättslig Tidskrift, the main Scandinavian European Law Journal, and of European Law Reporter. Since 2006 Sven Norberg is Senior Advisor at KREAB, one of the largest and most experienced Public Affairs consultancies in Brussels.
Deputy Secretary-General | EFTA - European Free Trade Association
Andri Lúthersson is the Deputy Secretary-General in Brussels, who supports the Secretary General in coordinating EFTA’s work in Brussels in relation to the Agreement on the European Economic Area and Brexit. Andri was previously at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the Director of Information and Communication and later, the Brexit-coordinator. Andri has also held the position of Councellor of Icelandic Mission to the EU. He has received a MA in International Relations from the University of Kent at Canterbury and a BA in Political Science from University of Iceland.
Deputy-Director | EFTA Surveillance Authority
Cath has worked for the EFTA Surveillance Authority for the last 6 years and is presently the Deputy Director of the Legal and Executive Affairs department. Prior to her work at ESA, Cath worked for the Law Society of England and Wales, at the Court of Justice of the EU and at the European Commission.