With Britain seemingly racing towards a no-deal Brexit, Norway's government has signed a temporary agreement to secure a continuation of trade.
The governments of Norway and the United Kingdom have agreed a post-Brexit free trade deal on a temporary basis. The agreement announced by Norway's ministry of trade and industry this week will regulate the two country's commercial ties from January.
A Norwegian spokesperson said the temporary deal was necessary because the chances of the UK reaching a permanent deal by 1 January was seen as “unrealistic.”
Norway officials were also quick to highlight that this deal is temporary and only intended to last for a few months until a free trade deal can be reached.
The relationship between Norway, Britain and Europe
While Norway is not and has never been a member of the European Union, the country is a part of the European Economic Area (EEA).
This allowed for fluid trade with Britain, which is one of Norway's most important trading partners in several key industries. Much of Norway's North Sea gas production is piped over to the UK, for example.
The UK formally quit the European Union on 31 January, but has been in a transition period throughout the remainder of 2020. The intention was to sign new trade deals with the EU and the USA, amongst others, before the end of the year.
If an agreement with the EU is not reached by the end of the year when the transition period expires, Britain will default to the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) regulations. These rules, including high customs duties, would have created huge headaches for UK-Norway trade.
The temporary trade agreement is based on a different deal the two countries negotiated back in 2018. However, a spokesperson for the Norwegian ministry confirmed a free trade deal must still be struck: “It is important that the business sector be aware that this is a limited deal, both in scope and duration.”
Fisheries deal also signed
The temporary trade deal comes just a few weeks after a fisheries agreement was struck between Norway and the UK. Fishing rights is a very complex area and has been one of the major sticking points in Britain's talks with the EU.
“I am glad that we now have an agreement that provides a framework for extensive fisheries cooperation with the UK, which is an important country for Norway. The agreement is consistent with our obligations under the law of the sea to cooperate with other coastal states on the joint management of shared fish stocks, in line with modern sustainable management regimes, an ecosystem-based approach and the precautionary principle. We will also maintain our close cooperation with the EU on fisheries in the North Sea. We look forward to putting in place a trilateral agreement between Norway, the UK and the EU on the management of joint fish stocks in the North Sea, once Brexit becomes a reality,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide.