PapersEconomic IntegrationLiving next door to an elephant: Lessons for the UK from EFTA

Living next door to an elephant: Lessons for the UK from EFTA

By Centre for European Reform

After Brexit, the UK finds itself next door to a regional trade hegemon. Britain can draw useful lessons from the experience of the EFTA countries. Brexit Britain has swum against the tide of ever-increasing regional integration that defined. Europe since World War Two and particularly since the end of the Cold War. The UK is not, however, alone in resisting integration. The four members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland – have for various reasons chosen to remain outside the EU, while pursuing close economic relations with it. The UK is much larger than any of the EFTA countries, but its relationship with the EU is not very different. The EFTA countries are in a similar position as the UK: the EU is their most important trading partner by some distance. The EU received 43 per cent by value of UK exports of goods in 2023, compared to 50 per cent of Swiss exports and 58 per cent of Norwegian non-petroleum exports.

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Author: Aslak Berg, Research Fellow, Centre for European Reform.

This article is available on the Centre for European Reform.

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