Norwegian business should brace for poorer trade conditions with Britain when the country exits the European Union's single market at the end of this year, Norway's trade minister has said.
Britain is Norway's single largest trading partner, with the Nordic country last year exporting goods worth NOK 181 billion (€17.1 billion) to the United Kingdom, with oil and gas accounting for 82% of the total.
Norway is not in the EU and Britain left the bloc on Jan. 31, but both countries still trade under the same internal market rules of the European Economic Area (EEA), comprised of EU and EFTA (European Free Trade Association) member states.
"(Our) agreement (with Britain) will unfortunately not be able to replace the EEA agreement, and the business community must prepare for the fact that they will experience new trade barriers when the UK leaves the internal market," Norway Trade and Industry Minister Iselin Nyboe said in an emailed statement.
Norway is seeking the same access to the post-EU UK market for its business as the EU, including for its maritime and defence industries, as well as the same rules on food and veterinary safety, the ministry said in a statement.
While Norway wants to continue enjoying zero tariffs on all industrial goods exported to Britain, it also wants fully free trade in seafood, an improvement from the current situation, where Norway has to abide by set EU quotas, it added.
"Britain is an important market for many Norwegian export companies, and they supply billions worth of goods and services to Norway," Nyboe said. "When Britain steps out of the (European) internal market, we will no longer have common game rules, and have to start from scratch."