Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide signed Norway’s own “Brexit agreement” with the UK in London Tuesday afternoon. It’s aimed at securing existing rights for Norwegian and British citizens in each other’s country after the UK leaves the European Union at midnight on Friday.
Søreide claimed there “will be no changes in the relation between our two countries before the transition period is over.” Nor will there be any changes in Norway’s relation to the EU, which is maintained through Norway’s trade and policy deal with the EU that’s known as the EØS/EEA agreement.
The deal signed with the UK on Tuesday was negotiated through Norway’s membership in the EØS/EEA (Europeisk Økonomisk Samarbeidsområde/European Economic Area), which also includes Iceland and Liechtenstein. It gives all three countries their own deal that reflects the parts of Brexit “that are also relevant for us,” Søreide said.
The Brexit transition period regarding the UK’s withdrawal from the EU runs until December 31, during which the UK will continue, according to Norway’s foreign ministry, “to be treated as if it were still a member of the EU and the EØS/EEA.” Trade regulations, business operations, the movement of people and goods and other activity agreed through the EØS/EEA agreement “will be able to continue through the entire transition period, and under the same conditions,” according to a press release from the ministry issued Tuesday.
Reassuring all involved
Both Søreide and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg were doing their best to reassure all involved. “Norway and Great Britain are important countries for each other,” stated Solberg, who initially drafted the deal with former British Prime Minister Theresa May in late 2018.
“Our history and our cooperation go back a long time,” Solberg continued. “The most important job for the (Norwegian) government in working with Brexit is to secure continuing, well-functioning EØS/EEA cooperation and carry on our close and good cooperation with Great Britain.”
Solberg stressed that when the UK leaves the EU, “it will be to our advantage that it’s with an agreement. I’m confident that the agreement we’ve signed today looks after Norway’s interests, and Norwegian citizens, in a good manner.” The Brexit transition period can be extended if both the UK and the EU agree on that.
Søreide stressed while in London on Tuesday that it’s “in the interests of both the UK and Norway” to take care of the “close and good relation” between the two. “The agreement we signed today ensures that Norwegian citizens who have built up rights in Great Britain will retain them, also after the transition period ends,” stated Søreide. “The same applies to British citizens in the EØS/EEA countries including Norway. It’s always been in our best interests that Norwegians who have chosen to live in Great Britain, and British citizens who have chosen to live in Norway will be able to continue their lives as before, also after Brexit.”
Residency, work, health care…
The rights at stake include those to residence, work and establishment of ventures, acceptance of work qualifications and coordination of welfare benefits including health care. The new agreement also encompasses measures to ensure that trade between Norway and the UK continues as before. The UK ranks as Norway’s largest bilateral trading parner, and the goal is to continue “the close economic relationship we have today with the British,” said Norway’s new business and trade minister, Iselin Nybø.
She said efforts are underway to complete a new free trade agreement with Great Britain, but she warned that Norwegian businesses “may meet trade hindrances when Britain actually leaves the EU’s inner market from January 1, 2021.” Seafood exports are expected to continue as usual through the transition period, but another new fisheries deal is needed with both the EU and the UK by 2021.
“We have a good dialogue with both the EU and the British on these issues, and I want to further the good cooperation,” stated new fisheries minister Geir-Inge Sivertsen. Negotiations begin in February.