NORWAY will reach a separate agreement with the UK in the event of a no deal or a hard Brexit, in order to safeguard the two countries’ uninterrupted trade in seafood.
This was the message from Norwegian fisheries minister Harald Tom Nesvik, addressing delegates at the Norwegian Seafood Council seminar in London yesterday.
Nesvik drew on Norway and Britain’s shared history to promise continued collaboration, against the backdrop of uncertainty over the UK’s exit from the EU.
He said although he hoped Britain would reach an agreement with the EU, Norway ‘luckily has a good dialogue’ with the UK government on a no deal scenario.
Ahead of a meeting with his counterparts in Westminster yesterday afternoon, Nesvik appeared confident of finding ‘good solutions’
‘Should an agreement not be reached, we are prepared to reach a separate agreement with you,’ he said.
‘Norway and Britain have a long and common history. We have been closely linked for more than a millennium and we are still brothers and sisters in arms. Our shared history is part of what makes our two nations both strong and prosperous.
‘There is no doubt Norway and Britain truly depend on each other and that is why it is crucial to ensure predictable and uninterrupted trade between our two countries.’
The UK is Norway’s fourth largest export market for seafood, worth around £575 million in 2018, an 18 per cent increase on the previous year.
The rise in salmon exports was particularly significant, with ‘quite important growth’ in UK consumption of Norwegian salmon, said Nesvik.
He later told Fish Farmer that Norway’s salmon farmers were looking to March 29, the date Britain is due to leave the EU, with concern, not least over potential logistics issues.
‘That is why it’s very important, in a no deal scenario, to tell everyone we are going on as we have always done for many years.
‘My people are in very close dialogue with Defra and I’m certain we’re going to reach a good deal for everybody because we are dependent on each other.
‘Our fish industry wants to sell fish to the growing UK market and also I believe the consumers in the UK want Norwegian fish and that’s why we need to find good solutions.’
However, a warning came from a British trading expert that while the UK and Norway would be free to negotiate their own deal, following a no deal exit on March 29, obstacles remained.
Norway, although not in the EU is, along with Lichtenstein and Iceland, a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and European Economic Area (EEA), and is aligned with EU market rules.
Andrew Kuyk, director general of the UK Provision Trade Federation, said: ‘If we exit without a deal, we are free to do that [find a deal with Norway], that’s fine between you and us, but I don’t imagine Brussels is going to look too kindly on the UK and Norway suddenly getting a cosy agreement between themselves.
‘So you might find someone in Brussels picking up the phone to you and saying, yes of course you’re free to do a deal with the UK, but would you like to think about that a little bit before you do it.
‘It’s going to get highly political, highly sensitive…and we’re going to get even more brinkmanship.’
Picture: Fisheries minister Harald Tom Nesvik with the Norwegian Seafood Council’s UK chief, Hans Frode Asmyhr