The UK's future efforts to regain access to the European single market by joining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) could be blocked by Norway.
Ministers from the region have indicated that they may be opposed to any attempt by Britain to rejoin EFTA once it negotiates its exit from the European Union, as the UK's membership could have unwanted knock-on effects on the trade relationships the existing EFTA members have with other countries.
EFTA was first established in 1960 as part of the European Economic Community (EEC) project. Britain was a founding member of EFTA and remained so until committing fully to the EEC - the forerunner to the EU - in 1973.
Currently, access to the European single market is limited to members of either the EU or EFTA, with the latter now made up of four nations - Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Norway. Rejoining EFTA has been suggested as a means for the UK to retain its access to European free trade arrangements in a post-Brexit landscape.
However, all of its existing members would need to approve the acceptance of any new members, and Norway is giving indications it may not be minded to do so.
Elisabeth Vik Aspaker, Norway's European affairs minister, told the news publication Aftenposten: "It's not certain that it would be a good idea to let a big country into this organization. It would shift the balance, which is not necessarily in Norway’s interests."
Key concerns include the fact that EFTA has trade agreements in place with nearly 40 nations, including Mexico, Canada, Colombia, Morocco, Kuwait and Qatar, and that these deals would need to be renegotiated to account for the UK's membership. The addition of Britain to the bloc would also potentially make future negotiations more complex.
Senior Norwegian government members are to hold talks with David Davis, the British government minister in charge of the Brexit process, over the next few weeks.