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Britain has secured post-Brexit trade agreements with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein in a major deal worth more than £200 million ($282.59m) for the UK economy.
The accord with the three non-EU countries, which are part of the European Economic Area allowing them access to the single market, will boost critical sectors such as digital and slash tariffs as much as 277 per cent on high-quality British food exports such as cheese and meat.
The agreement will boost the labour market with British businesses able to bid for more government contracts in partner countries worth about £200m annually.
“Today’s deal will be a major boost for our trade with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, growing an economic relationship already worth £21.6 billion, while supporting jobs and prosperity in all four nations at home,” UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said on Friday.
Britain formally left the EU in January 2020 after nearly five decades of membership, and quit the single market and customs union at the start of this year.
Since the end of a Brexit transition period on December 31, the three countries have relied on temporary trade arrangements with the UK.
Access to Britain’s rich fishing waters was a major sticking point in post-Brexit talks, with the new pact helping to reduce import tariffs on fish.
“Reduced import tariffs on shrimp, prawns and haddock will reduce costs for UK fish processing, helping support some 18,000 jobs in that industry in Scotland and northern England,” Friday’s statement said.
Britain is Norway’s top trading partner outside the EU while Norway is Britain’s 13th largest trading partner, with the deal cutting tariffs as much as 277 per cent on British cheese exports to the country such as Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar, Traditional Welsh Caerphilly and Yorkshire Wensleydale.
Tariff reductions and quotas on meat and other goods such as Scotch whisky will be recognised in Norway and Iceland, while exports to the three non-EU countries will be done without paperwork.
“All documents, contracts and signatures can be electronic, allowing goods to move seamlessly across borders and saving businesses time and money,” the statement said.
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg told a news conference in Oslo that her nation and Britain would benefit from a deal that “allows for growth in trade for both our countries”.
The arrangement will also allow for caps on the fees mobile operators are allowed to charge each other for international data roaming, a world-first in a free-trade agreement, keeping costs low for holidaymakers and business travellers.
Sue Davies, head of consumer protection and food policy at Which?, said it was positive to see measures on mobile roaming included in the deal.
“The government should look to build on this by including mobile roaming agreements in future trade deals and securing similar terms with the EU and other countries to prevent holidaymakers and other travellers from facing eye-watering phone bills after a trip abroad,” said Ms Davies.
The deal makes it easier for highly skilled workers to enter Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein for business purposes, with faster and simpler visa processes and professional qualifications recognised to ensure professionals such as nurses, lawyers and vets do not have to retrain to work in partner countries.
“A new free-trade agreement with Britain has been a priority during my term as minister and will be crucial for both Icelandic companies and consumers,” Iceland’s Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson said.
The deal comes as talks began this week on Britain joining the vast transPacific trade pact.
Britain applied in February to join the 11-nation deal, signed in 2018 by countries including Japan, Canada, Mexico, Vietnam and Australia.
The UK is also in advanced trade deal discussions with Australia and has held early talks with India, New Zealand and the US.