Norwegian Trade Minister Iselin Nybø wants to speed up the process of hammering out a new trade deal with Great Britain when it leaves the EU at the end of the year. Preliminary sessions were beginning this week at the administrative level, with Norway’s European Economic Area colleagues Iceland and Liechtenstein taking part as well.
The talks have been postponed by the Corona crisis, not least in Britain where even Prime Minister Boris Johnson fell seriously ill. Nybø held her first telephone conversation with her British counterpart Conor Burns on March 10, just two days before the Norwegian government shut down most of the country in an effort to contain the virus. Then Britain went into lockdown as well and it remains unclear when borders will reopen and travel can resume.
A new trade agreement with Great Britain must be in place by New Year, since Johnson’s government opposes any extension of the current deadlines. “We’re well-prepared and ready to meet whenever that can be,” Nybø told news bureau NTB.
Talks at the political level may commence by early June. She’s not afraid Norway will land far down the line of countries needing new trade deals with a post-Brexit Britain: “We have very good relations with the British. This is an agreement that’s important for both sides to get into place.”