Norway for Now Q&A
Is there enough time to negotiate a Norway-style agreement before March 2019?
Due to the ‘off-the-shelf’ nature of the Norway option it is likely that negotiations would proceed swiftly. But we would probably need some of the transition ("Implementation Period") to finalise and implement the agreement. This short transition period will make sure that all procedures and processes regarding UK-EU trade will work seamlessly from day one.
Isn’t it clear that the EU won’t agree to the UK pursuing a Norway-style arrangement?
No. Michel Barnier, the EU’s Chief Negotiator, has always said that a model that combined EEA/EFTA and a customs union was one that he would be happy to consider. Norway for Now would preserve frictionless trade and not threaten the EU’s cherished ‘4 freedoms’.
To join the EEA doesn’t the UK have to be a member of the EU or EFTA first?
The UK is already inside the EEA and would be able to retain membership. We would apply to join EFTA and the EFTA pillar of the EEA.
Is a ‘continuity of customs arrangement’ compatible with article 56(3) of EFTA?
It will involve a derogation from the EFTA Agreement that will require the approval of the existing EFTA states. Both the Norwegian Prime Minister and the Icelandic Foreign Minister have stated publicly that they would welcome a British application to join EFTA and stay in the EEA. Furthermore it would be in their interests to do so. The UK is Norway’s largest export market. We are Iceland’s second largest market.
Will the UK have a unilateral right to leave the EEA/EFTA at a time of its own choosing?
Under the EEA Agreement any member retains the right to withdraw with one year’s notice. But, to avoid the problems of an Irish “backstop”, we would agree not to exercise that right, so long as the EU works in good faith to negotiate mutually acceptable alternative arrangements for customs and trade.
Doesn’t Norway for Now still have the same problems with the Irish backstop as Chequers?
As members of EEA and EFTA, with continuity in our current customs and VAT arrangements, there would be no need for any regulatory, customs or VAT checks at any border between the UK and the EU. The EU will require an insurance policy to guarantee that the UK will not leave the EEA or the customs arrangements without alternative arrangements having been agreed. We would offer a legally binding commitment not to do so in exchange for a legally binding commitment by the EU to work in good faith to negotiate and conclude new arrangements that preserve no hard border in Ireland.
What will the border look like under a Norway-style arrangement?
Michel Barnier has confirmed that what he calls "Norway Plus" (membership of the EEA and a customs union or its equivalent) is the only Brexit option that delivers frictionless trade. There would be no need for any new checks at the border.
Will the UK’s immigration policy from Europe change under Norway for Now?
If the U.K. enters the EFTA pillar of the EEA, workers from elsewhere in the EEA will have the right to work in the U.K. However, the position will be better than the position before Brexit in two ways:
- first, under Article 112 (1) of the EEA Agreement, we will have an ‘emergency brake’ which will allow us to cap migration if events give rise to “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties of a sectorial or regional nature”; and
- second, as a result of the Government’s preparations for Brexit, we are registering all EEA nationals in the UK; we will therefore be in a position to identify any EEA nationals who settle in the U.K. but do not find work within a few months, and will be able to remove them.
How much money will the UK send to Brussels under the Norway option? Will we still pay a €39bn divorce bill on leaving the EU?
We would still require EU consent for a revised Withdrawal Agreement so we would honour the €39 billion divorce settlement. If we stayed in the EEA after the end of the transition, like the other EFTA states in the EEA we would pay for what we access from Single Market programmes and agencies. This would amount to approximately 2/3 of what we currently pay per capita.
Doesn’t the Norway-style arrangement prevent the UK from securing its own trade deals?
Initially, to avoid a border in Ireland the UK would enter a comprehensive customs relationship with the EU. Once the UK and the EU have agreed new systems and procedures which remove the need for customs checks at the Irish border, the UK could withdraw from its customs arrangement with the EU, and would then be free to sign trade deals with third parties either bilaterally or through EFTA if it wished.
How long will this Norway-style arrangement last?
A Norway-style arrangement would take the UK out of the EU and maximise our options for the future. There would be no time limit on our membership but nor could the UK be kept in the EEA against our will. Our agreement to stay in the arrangement until new arrangements have been agreed would depend on the EU fulfilling its obligation to negotiate these new arrangements in good faith.
Is this being put forward as an alternative to the Prime Minister’s deal, or only as a plan B in case the PM either fails to get a deal or fails to get a majority for her deal in the Commons?
The Norway for Now plan has many advantages. But it is being proposed as a Plan B which would deliver Brexit and avoid the chaos of no deal.