Article 56.3 of the EFTA Convention stipulates that a new EFTA Member State “requests membership of free trade agreements between Member States on the one hand and third countries, state associations or international organisations, on the other.” As a member of a customs union, a country that joins EFTA has not been able to fulfil this obligation. EFTA membership does not exclude the establishment of a customs agreement with the EU; existing EFTA countries regulate their relations with the EU through different instruments. As I indicated in this previous article, the British government`s argument that, after the UK`s exit from the EU, pursuant to Article 126 of the EEA, the “territories on which [EU treaties] are applied” are shrinking to exclude the UNITED Kingdom. By interpreting in this way and on the basis of Article 126 of the EEA, the United Kingdom Government deprives the specific withdrawal provision, Article 127 EEA, of any effect contrary to the teleological interpretation method of the EEA agreement. Moreover, the basic structure of the EEA-EFTA agreement is inherently problematic: the United Kingdom claims to leave a joint multilateral agreement with thirty other contracting parties, as well as the European Union, without written notification, and sever its direct relations by attempting to conclude a treaty with only three contracting parties to the EEA. The EFTA secretariat does not participate in the management of bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU. Since 2001, the EFTA agreement has been constantly updated to bring its content in line with the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU and the EEA agreement. These include, for example, provisions relating to the free movement of persons between all EFTA states. Calculating meeting days is difficult. The Speaker of the House of Commons, for example, may decide that the house will be sitting on a Friday that previously looked like a non-seated Friday.

At present, it appears that the government must submit treaties to Parliament by February 22, when it will meet the full 21-day deadline and that these treaties will be ratified by March 29.