Øivind Bratberg

Senior Lecturer, Department of Political Science, University of Oslo.

On 31 January 2021, the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU finally came into force. The week before, the parties agreed on a trade agreement that will ensure their future relationship. It marked the end of a year in which the British membership conditions continued as before while the parties negotiated exit terms.

The trade agreement between the EU and the UK is a wide-ranging free trade agreement, but compared to seamless trade terms within the EU’s internal market, it is a big step backwards. It ensures duty and quota-free access for industrial goods.

But the agreement says little about trade in services, and the financial sector in London is living in uncertainty with regard to future certificates and market access in Europe. Veterinary control has been introduced for trade in seafood and other food products.

Delays for trailers crossing the English Channel are also expected to hamper trade over time. And finally, citizens crossing the border must apply for health insurance, as well as visas and work permits for those going to work.

What awaits now are the actual consequences. 

Øivind Bratberg, University of Oslo

What about Norway’s trade relations with Great Britain? The Norwegian authorities want a trade agreement that in most areas will reflect what the British are negotiating with the EU. The agreement is expected to be negotiated during the spring of 2021, and until then a temporary transitional agreement will ensure trade in goods without customs duties.

But many other areas of our trade relationship have been set back to WTO terms, which means new kinks in the line of trade in services and investment. For employees and students starting up in 2021, the new reality has already taken hold.

Negotiations between the EU and the UK have long been hampered by such issues as fishing rights and a level playing field. In both areas, the parties succeeded in finding suitable compromises, and the agreement took the drama out of Brexit. What awaits now are the actual consequences.

For the Norwegian economy, market access for gas and seafood products is of the utmost importance, and the agreement for seafood in particular will be examined carefully.

Øivind Bratberg, University of Oslo

The British government has balanced between the desire to become a free player in the global market and the desire for an effective trade agreement with the EU. The trade agreement has left that question hanging in the air.

The British have acquired room to manoeuvre, for example in connection with the EU’s common standards for the environment and workers’ rights. But where the room to manoeuvre is used, it can also mean new trade barriers in the agreement with the EU.

For the Norwegian economy, market access for gas and seafood products is of the utmost importance, and the agreement for seafood in particular will be examined carefully.

But our trade relationship with the UK is also made up of many smaller contacts and relationships where Brexit will be felt in the form of small obstacles, more forms to fill out, and more bureaucracy.

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