Could the UK rejoin the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) after Brexit?
Having been a founder member, can the UK once again become a member of EFTA after it leaves the EU asks Professor David Phinnemore.
With the Brexit clock ticking ever louder, the need to plan the UK’s future relationships with not only the EU but other trading partners too becomes more urgent. One option is to seek membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the grouping comprising Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
This would provide some continuity in terms of preferential access to a not insignificant market for UK goods. EFTA accounts for 8.5% of UK exports. Membership should also, through EFTA’s free trade agreements with 38 countries, provide preferential access to a range of markets without the UK having to negotiate new bilateral agreements. Plus, securing EFTA membership would facilitate participation in the European Economic Area (EEA) if the UK wanted to pursue this post-Brexit. EFTA membership does not entail EEA membership, but only EU and EFTA member states can currently be contracting parties to the EEA Agreement.
This raises the question of what is the process for joining EFTA, an organisation of which the UK was in fact a founding member in 1960 and which it only left in 1972 to join the European Community.
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