EFTA Parliamentary Committee members discuss Brexit with counterparts in the UK

Published 12-04-2018
EFTA parliamentarians with Catherine West of the International Trade Committee.
A delegation of 19 members of the EFTA Parliamentary Committee (PC) met their counterparts in the Parliament of the United Kingdom (UK) and together they held a series of meetings with other high-ranking officials and stakeholders, during a three-day visit to London on 19-21 March. The main purpose of the visit is to discuss future trade relations between the UK and the EFTA States after Brexit.

The Parliamentary Committee (PC) is a forum for parliamentarians from the four EFTA states, providing the Association with a valuable link to political life in each EFTA country and, through its cooperation with parliamentarians in the European Union, serves as a link between political life in EFTA and the EU. Read more about the Committee here.

The visit to London is one of the most important events of the year, as future relations with the UK are of utmost importance to all EFTA states. The Committee is currently chaired by Ms Karin Keller-Sutter from Switzerland. 

 

In the morning of 20 March, the PC met with members of the Exiting the European Union Committee and the International Trade Committee at the House of Commons.   

 

 

Ms Keller-Sutter reflected on how the UK exit from the EU will have a direct impact on the relationship between the UK and the EFTA States, as the current agreements  (EEA Agreement and Swiss bilateral agreements) will no longer apply to the UK.

“The UK and the EFTA States will therefore have to find ways to cooperate to ensure that we continue to maintain high market access and cooperation between our countries,” she said.

 

The Chair of the EFTA delegation also pointed out that these agreements not only cover free movement of goods and services but also the rights of people residing in each other’s countries. Currently, there are more than 54 000 citizens from the EFTA countries in the UK and almost 55 000 UK citizens in the EFTA countries that risk to lose the rights they have through the current agreements.

The Chair underlined that the UK is a key trading partner for the EFTA countries in a range of sectors, such as pharmaceuticals, financial services, seafood and gas. In 2016, total trade between EFTA and the UK was valued at over GBP 50 billion. “For trade in goods, the UK is a crucial export market for EFTA. Almost 10% of EFTA’s exports go to the UK. For trade in services, EFTA absorbs more than five percent of the UK’s exports of services. The importance of trade flows and investments between our countries underlines how essential it is to find solutions for our future trade relations that ensure predictability for our market operators and citizens,” Ms Keller-Sutter said.

The last day of the visit was chaired by Icelandic MP Smári McCarthy, who pointed out that exports of goods from the EFTA states to the UK increased from EUR 27 to 29 billion in 2017.

After the busy 3-visit, the Vice-Chair concluded that - regardless of technical solutions between the UK and the EU - these meetings would have positive result in the future relations between the EFTA States and the UK.

“Everybody concerned, regardless of their personal opinion or party opinions on Brexit, that it is absolutely vital that, as we move forward, as we see the completion of Brexit, that we will continue to have very strong trade relations with the UK.”

In her tweet, Swiss MP Kathy Riklin said the London meetings with UK Ministers 'fruitful':

 

 

Click here to find high resolution photos from the meetings

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Seminar on the European Economic Area - Brussels 14 February 2019