04:56 GMT +316 July 2019
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    Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, from left, look on as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during ceremony at NATO headquarters at the NATO summit in Brussels on Thursday, May 25, 2017.

    EU Will Be Flexible on Pre-Brexit Oslo-London Trade Talks - Norway FM

    © AP Photo / Geert Vanden Wijngaert
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    Britain is not supposed to open formal bilateral trade negotiations with third nations until its exit from the European Union is settled. Norway's Foreign Minister has now expressed an opinion somewhat opposing the rules set by Brussels.

    During a press conference in Belgium, Norway's top diplomat Ine Eriksen Soreide said on May 25 that she was under the impression the EU will take a "flexible approach to this."

    "On the one hand, you can say that the formal demand is that they (the British) cannot start negotiations before… the transition period is over. But I'm not entirely sure if that will be enforced to the same extent as you could think. So my impression as of Wednesday… is that (there) is the potential for some added flexibility. But we will have to wait and see. At least we have talks on both sides and will continue to do that with full force," Ms. Eriksen Soreide said. 

    The Norwegian-British trade relationship is focused on energy, with almost half of British gas imports originating from the Norwegian continental shelf. Britain imports about 70% of its oil from Norway, while being Oslo's most important export market.

    "We are better off with a cooperation between countries and states instead of the strongest state always winning the race," Ms. Eriksen Soreide told the media.

    Norway is not a member of the EU, but is part of the European Economic Area, allowing it to be part of the EU's single market. The 'Norwegian model' has been rejected by the UK government along the process of negotiations over the future of British trade relations with the EU.

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    The UK PM Theresa May is aiming to broker a deal, which will see Britain in a "customs partnership" with the EU.

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    Britain is due to leave the EU in March 2019, with the transition period agreed to last until end of 2020, during which Britain will have restricted powers.

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    customs union, trade agreements, trade, European Union, Europe, United Kingdom, Norway
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