EFTA membership 'may be best way for UK to retain single market access'

Industry News | | MIC Customs Solutions |

Joining the EFTA trading bloc is increasingly being regarded as the best way for the UK to retain its links with Europe post-Brexit, according to reports.

Experts and officials are talking up the benefits of the UK joining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) as a means of retaining strong trade links to Europe even after the country leaves the European Union.

With Britain's Brexit strategy remaining opaque for the time being, a number of options are being publicly discussed, with a restoration of the UK's membership of EFTA - an organization it helped to found in 1960 before it made the decision to join the EU in the first place - seen as a potentially beneficial arrangement.

Speaking to the Guardian, EFTA court president Carl Baudenbacher said EFTA could be "a natural home for the UK post-Brexit", as the members of the association - which currently include Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Iceland - have access to the single market and are part of the European Economic Area.

At the same time, EFTA nations do not need to be part of the EU customs union and retain a greater degree of national sovereignty than they would as EU members - a key point of contention that played a significant role in the UK's Brexit vote.

Mr Baudenbacher said joining EFTA represents "a clear route to access the single market, but you keep sovereignty with regard to common policies, and in particular to foreign trade policies, because we are not a customs union".

Meanwhile, Swiss president Johann Schneider-Ammann stated after a recent EFTA ministerial meeting that Switzerland would welcome the UK back into EFTA, as Britain is the country's sixth biggest trading partner, and Mr Schneider-Ammann is unwilling to see the relationship between the two countries damaged.

Additionally, former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond has held informal talks with EFTA about the UK's future relationship with Europe, as Scotland - which was in favor of remaining in the EU - is particularly keen to retain strong links to the continent.