UK signs post-Brexit deal with three European countries

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The United Kingdom announced on Friday June 4 a free trade agreement with three European countries, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, a new important step in its ambition to strengthen its commercial influence after Brexit. The agreement concluded with these three countries which are not members of the European Union but are closely linked to it through their membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) covers a trade volume of 21.6 billion pounds in 2020.

It will lead to “a major boom in our trade” with the other three states, said UK Trade Minister Liz Truss in a statement. Since the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union (EU), Boris Johnson’s government has a project, described as “Global Britain”, to negotiate trade agreements around the world, which it believes will be more advantageous than those negotiated. by the EU.

London has already secured agreements with the EU, Singapore and Japan, and is in talks with Australia, the United States, India and New Zealand. Negotiations will also begin with Canada and Mexico. The one unveiled Friday will “boost important sectors such as digital, lower tariffs on high-quality British food and agricultural products and support jobs across the country,” said the Ministry of Commerce.

A reduction in customs duties provided for in the agreement

Essentially covering trade with Norway, the agreement notably provides for a reduction in customs duties, which can now reach 277%, for exporters of certain cheddar cheeses to the Nordic country. It also includes rate cuts in pork, poultry, some fish and shellfish and “helps preserve 18,000 jobs” in fish farming.

Norway, for its part, stressed that the agreement would not lead to an increase in the quotas of British beef and cheese, thus appeasing a priori the fears of national producers as the center-right government faces legislative elections which are taking place. present badly in September. The Nordic country thus secures access to its first market, outside the EU, since the United Kingdom absorbs 22% of its exports, including a lot of natural gas and fish.

Among other advances, the text provides for electronic procedures rather than paper forms for trade, a cap on telephone roaming charges or even mutual recognition of training for certain qualified jobs (nurse, veterinarian, lawyer). …).

A less dynamic agreement than that of the EEA

In anticipation of Brexit, the United Kingdom, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein had signed a temporary agreement allowing them to continue to exchange their goods freely but a permanent and more extensive agreement, including in particular services and public procurement, remained to be concluded. At a press conference in Oslo, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg hailed “the largest free trade deal we have ever concluded.”

Europhile in a country which has twice refused to join the EU, Erna Solberg however stressed that “a free trade agreement will not be as satisfactory as the EEA agreement”. With Brexit, the United Kingdom also left this space which guarantees the free movement of people, goods, services and capital between the EU and Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

“A free trade agreement means more bureaucracy and increased costs for businesses and citizens, and is less dynamic compared to what we have through the EEA,” argued Erna Solberg. “The agreement does not remove all barriers to trade either. Some are not resolved, ”she added. The text has yet to be approved by the Norwegian Parliament, where Erna Solberg’s government is in the minority.

In Reykjavik, Icelandic Foreign Minister Guðlaugur Thór Thórdarson, for his part, welcomed “a historic agreement which marks a turning point in relations between the countries”. “The UK is one of Iceland’s most important export markets and, due to the close ties between the two countries, it was considered extremely important to conclude a future deal with the UK at this stage, ”he said in a statement.

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