Any State which becomes a member of EFTA is obliged to apply for accession to existing EFTA free trade agreements in accordance with Article 56 of the EFTA Agreement. The accession of a new Member State to our free trade agreements can only be negotiated with the agreement of the other party or parties to the agreement. All of our free trade agreements contain provisions that govern accession to the free trade agreement in question and provide that the terms must be agreed by the acceding party and by all existing parties to the free trade agreement. There are also other important differences with the agreement between Britain and the EU. Last but not least, the EEA-EFTA Agreement does not include the same large-scale dispute settlement agreements for independent arbitration proceedings. As these countries participate in the internal market and other EU-led initiatives, this agreement will reflect a small number of other relevant separation issues that we agreed with the EU in the Withdrawal Agreement. The separation issues covered by this Agreement are: agreements concerning products placed on the EFTA market in the United Kingdom or the EEA, intellectual property, ongoing police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, data protection, public procurement and ongoing judicial proceedings. This is important, given that the UK`s total trade with EEA-EFTA countries amounted to almost £30 billion in 2017. An EFTA State may request a reservation to certain EU provisions. While this is happening, the EEA Agreement obliges all parties to work in good faith towards an agreement. If they do not agree, the matter will be referred back to the Joint Committee. If it is not resolved within six months, the relevant part relating to the legislation at issue shall be suspended. This may result in the exclusion of the State concerned from the EEA in respect of this sector.

Some EFTA countries have developed the EEA Agreement bilaterally in areas such as justice and home affairs, foreign and security policy and agriculture. Norway participates in operations and missions under the Common Security and Defence Policy, as well as in the activities of the European Defence Agency. On 1 July, our first dialogue on the future relationship of UK-Swiss took place. The government is taking a sequenced approach to our joint efforts with Switzerland before the review clause of our trade continuation agreement is activated in 2021. First, we will try to solve as much as possible the problems of residual separation. Secondly, we will also try to address issues that depend on our negotiations with the EU, or even on the negotiations that are related to them. Third, we will start by exploring new bilateral opportunities where we can move forward together in 2020. Article 126 of the WITHDRAWAL AGREEMENT between the EU and the UK provides for a transitional period until 31 December 2020. It follows from Article 129 of the Withdrawal Agreement that the United Kingdom is bound, during the transitional period, to the obligations arising from international agreements concluded by the EU, including the EEA Agreement.

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