The European Free Trade Association FAQs on Brexit make a number of statements clarifying the UK’s position as regards EEA membership.
Such statements include:
- The UK ceased to be a Contracting Party to the EEA Agreement after its withdrawal from the EU on 31 January 2020. This follows from the two-pillar structure and Article 126 of the EEA Agreement, which states that the EEA Agreement applies to the territory of the EU and the three EEA EFTA States. Nevertheless, during the transition period the UK will continue to be treated as an EEA State (see below).
- Article 126 of the Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and the UK provides for a transition period until 31 December 2020. It follows from Article 129 of the Withdrawal Agreement that, during the transition period, the UK shall be bound by the obligations stemming from the international agreements concluded by the EU, including the EEA Agreement. The EEA EFTA States have agreed to treat the UK as an EU Member State during this period. Accordingly, the rights and obligations contained in the EEA Agreement continue to apply between the UK and the EEA EFTA States until 31 December 2020.
- After the transition period has ended, the UK will be a third country in terms of the EEA Agreement. As the EEA Agreement does not establish a common commercial or a trade policy, this means that the trade relationship between the EEA EFTA States and the UK after the transition period will have to be agreed in negotiations between the EEA EFTA States and the UK.
- The EEA EFTA States and the UK signed a Separation Agreement on the 28 January 2020. The Separation Agreement mirrors the relevant parts of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement and secures the rights of EEA EFTA and UK citizens that are already residing or working in the EEA EFTA States or the UK, respectively. In addition to provisions on citizen rights, the Separation Agreement covers other separation issues – such as goods placed on the market before the end of the transition period, intellectual property rights, ongoing police and judicial cooperation, judicial procedures, data protection, and public procurement – and institutional provisions.
Further information on the Separation Agreement can be found on the Department for Exiting the EU website.