Queen's Policy Engagement

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.

Could the UK rejoin the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) after Brexit?

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.

Continue reading on The Conversation.

The featured image has been used courtesy of a Creative Commons license. 



Professor David Phinnemore
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David Phinnemore is Professor of European Politics and Jean Monnet Chair in European Political Science in the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics at Queen's University Belfast. He is also Dean of Education for the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Professor Phinnemore's research interests cover EU treaty reform, EU enlargement, EU external relations and alternatives to EU membership, particularly association.

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