It is not in the national interest of Norway to automatically accept Britain back into EFTA. First, because the United Kingdom is so much larger than the current members. EFTA’s total population right now is 13 million people, a fifth of the population of the current UK alone. Current members of EFTA are Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein.
A UK in EFTA would be a very large fish in a very small pond, and it might not be in the best interests of any of the current members to allow that to happen. Switzerland would benefit greatly from London losing its financial services outside the single market. Accession to EFTA requires unanimity from all the current members. With one vote per member state it’s not a very democratic setup. However, a large country like the UK would have an inordinate pull within a group of such small countries.
Also, EFTA has no wish to complicate relations with the European Union, and by admitting a member who has spent the last thirty years in constant conflict with the goals and intentions of the EU could lead to a new, and more fractious, relationship between EFTA and the EU. Even here in the Nordics, the patience for exceptions and by-rules and special deals have worn thin.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Today the Norwegian fish is met with tolls and tariffs as it enters the European Union markets such as the UK’s, and that makes some Norwegians eager for the UK to join EFTA. The tariffs and tolls would go away. Today, Norway exports about NOK 4,7 billion to the UK. If that was tariff free, it would mean increased profitability for Norwegian fish.
That isn’t in Scotland’s interest. In 2015 Norwegian vessels landed 2,3 million tonnes of fish, crustaceans, and molluscs. Scotland, in comparison, landed 236 thousand tonnes in 2014. The Norwegian sea food industry is ten times larger than the Scottish one, and it is far more developed and extensive than the Scottish industry. By joining EFTA with its tariff free trade in fish, Scotland could easily be out-competed in its own home markets.
Scots will have to ask themselves how useful it is for Scottish fisheries to exchange a small Spanish fishing fleet from the EU, with a much larger one that lives in the same geographical area. A fishing industry that’s very aggressive, very flexible, and very keen to supply the nation’s fish and chips.