After Deadlocked Brexit Talks, Britain Ponders Backdoor EU Membership
Speaking in Washington on Friday night after four days of testy and inconclusive talks in Brussels with EU negotiators, the British minister overseeing Brexit negotiations, David Davis, offered the admission that Britain is weighing whether to join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).
Such an arrangement could at least be temporary while Britain tries to negotiate a better deal for itself with the EU, the country’s largest trading partner.
Joining the EFTA would allow Britain to secure access to the EU’s Single Market and customs union, and avoid crippling tariffs and trade restrictions when it exits the EU in March 2019.
His open admission surprised some in the audience at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where in a speech, he also appeared to take aim at U.S. President Donald Trump and warned against the West turning its back on globalization and free trade. Without mentioning Trump directly, he said, “It feels to me it is necessary to make the case once more for free trade and capitalism.”
‘Hard Brexiters’ may bulk
It is Davis’ disclosure that Prime Minister Theresa May is considering the possibility of Britain applying for membership of the EFTA, however, that’s likely to prove explosive when it comes to so-called “hard Brexiters” in the Conservative Party and populist nationalists, such as Nigel Farage, who want a clean break from the EU.
“It is something we’ve thought about,” Davis said in reply to a question from Iceland’s ambassador to the U.S., Geir Haarde, about whether Britain could opt for the so-called ‘Norway option.’ But the British minister cautioned “it’s not at the top of the list.”
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