The EEA-EFTA nations have to adopt new single market EU acquis without having a vote on its enactment in either the EU Council or the European Parliament. Clearly, this is a major drawback to the EEA-EFTA (or ‘Norway’) Brexit option. But equally clearly, just how big a drawback this is depends greatly on how much of the total EU acquis we would have to adopt, or perhaps more to the point, on how much of the acquis we would have to adopt compared to how much we currently adopt, given our various opt-outs.
Some of the estimates that have been given are:
- 6.5%, from David Oddson, Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs, 2005.
- 9%, from Nei til EU, the Norwegian anti-EU campaigning organisation. See their articles here and here.
- 21% from Richard North here.
- 28% from the 2012 Norwegian government report ‘Outside and Inside’, at page 795 of the Norwegian edition.
- ‘Approximately three-quarters’, from the same Norwegian report, at page 6 of the official English version of chapter 1, here and here.
- 80%, from Halldór Ásgrimsson, Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs, 2003.
Jean-Claude Piris, formerly Legal Counsel of the European Council and of the EU Council, has claimed that if the UK were to leave the EU and join EFTA, we could not simply remain in the EEA, but would have to make a fresh application to join it according to Article 128 of the EEA Agreement. Article 128 reads:
1. Any European State becoming a member of the Community shall, or becoming a member of EFTA may, apply to become a Party to this Agreement. It shall address its application to the EEA Council.
2. The terms and conditions for such participation shall be the subject of an agreement between the Contracting Parties and the applicant State. That agreement shall be submitted for ratification or approval by all Contracting Parties in accordance with their own procedures.
The European Free Trade Association was founded in 1960 by Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. When the UK and Denmark left EFTA and joined the EEC on 1 January 1973, the remaining EFTA states entered into bilateral Free Trade Agreements with the Community (except that the FTAs of Iceland, which had joined EFTA in 1970, and of Norway, followed later in March 1973, and July 1973, respectively.)
By 1984, the process of removing tariffs and quotas between the EFTA states and the EC had been completed, and in April at an EFTA-EC Ministerial meeting in Luxembourg, it was agreed to strengthen cooperation with a view to creating a ‘dynamic European economic space’.