European Economic Area Membership

Author (Corporate)
Series Title
Series Details No.17/41 (13.06.17)
Publication Date 13/06/2017
Content Type

Following the UK's decision to leave the European Union, there has been discussion about EEA-EFTA membership, both as a transitional arrangement for the UK upon leaving the EU and for an independent Scotland as a stepping stone towards EU membership.

EEA-EFTA membership would mean membership of the European Single Market and would incorporate many of the same provisions and obligations of EU membership, including the four freedoms. However, it does not incorporate membership of the Customs Union or the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy. In addition, EEA-EFTA membership does not require membership of the Eurozone.

EEA-EFTA membership does not bring a member state under the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union, but it does require EEA-EFTA national courts to take notice of (but not be bound by) EFTA Court rulings. In addition, the EEA Joint-Committee exists to ensure homogeneity between EU law and the EEA Agreement.

Whilst EEA-EFTA members are required to observe EU law (especially around the four freedoms) they cannot take part in the formal process of agreeing that law. Members can participate in working groups and are consulted on legislation but, ultimately, legislation is agreed within the institutions of the European Union.

Norway's experience of EEA-EFTA membership is that the economic benefits of membership of the Single Market are positive and outweigh the negative aspect of being a rule-taker rather than a rule-maker.

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Related Links
ESO: Find further information in ESO on Scotland and Brexit after the referendum
United Kingdom: House of Commons: Library: Briefing Paper, No.8129 (03.11.17): The European Economic Area

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