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UK strikes post-Brexit trade deal with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein

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By Alasdair Sandford
This is a Jan 1 2016 file photo of Jan Gunnar Johansen and Trond Dalgard as they fish for cod from the vessel Buaodden in the Norwegian Sea near Gryllefjord, northern Norway.
This is a Jan 1 2016 file photo of Jan Gunnar Johansen and Trond Dalgard as they fish for cod from the vessel Buaodden in the Norwegian Sea near Gryllefjord, northern Norway.   -   Copyright  (Cornelius Poppe / NTB scanpix via ) NORWAY OUT
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The United Kingdom has announced a new post-Brexit trade deal with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, boosting a relationship already worth £21.6 billion (€25.17 billion).

The agreement includes the digital and farming sectors and will boost the economy and support jobs, the British government said in a news release.

UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said the deal is a "major boost for trade" with the three other nations. It is said to be the most advanced the trio have done to date, with dedicated chapters on the digital trade and small businesses.

In what it describes as "cutting edge digital provisions", the British statement says UK firms exporting to Norway and Iceland will benefit from commitments that limit red tape and "allow goods to move seamlessly across borders".

Cheese and meat producers, it adds, will see a big reduction in tariffs.

Norway's trade ministry said the agreement ensures "a continuation of all previous tariff preferences for seafood and improved market access for white fish, shrimp, and several other products".

“This agreement secures Norwegian jobs and value creation and marks an important step forward in our relationship with the UK after Brexit," Prime Minister Erna Solberg said in a statement, adding that the "long-term agreement" would help "accelerate" the Norwegian economy.

Norway's aim to access the UK market to sell seafood, and the UK's desire to sell agricultural products in the Scandinavian country, had been points of tension in the negotiations. Norwegian media say quotas granted to Britain do not include mutton or beef, while existing cheese quotas will not increase.

The question of access for British agricultural products to Norwegian markets has been a sensitive political issue ahead of elections in the country.

The government statement said the UK was Norway's second most important market after the EU, and the deal guaranteed "at least as good access to the British market as the EU countries".

The UK's European partners in the deal are not members of the EU, but are part of its single market as members of the European Economic Area (EEA). As their arrangements with the EU would have ceased to apply to the UK after Brexit, the four countries signed a continuity agreement covering goods, but this free trade deal goes further.

However, the Norwegian statement added that the deal could not be compared with the EEA agreement Norway had with the UK when it was an EU member.

"Before Brexit, Norway had free movement of goods, services, capital and people into the United Kingdom through the EEA agreement. A free trade agreement will not provide equivalent access to the UK market," it said.

"Having had a quick glance this is a pretty bog standard Free Trade Agreement, with some level of tariff reduction and other preferential access against WTO (World Trade Organisation) terms, but obviously nothing like the previous seamless trade under a single market (agriculture aside)," tweeted trade expert David Henig, director of the European Centre for International Political Economy.

Since the start of 2021 and the expiry of the Brexit transition period, the UK has been freed from EU rules and able to implement its own trade deals with other countries.

The British government has been working to "roll over" dozens of EU trade deals with third countries which no longer apply to the UK -- though the accord just struck with the EEA nations is a new one.