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EU outsiders Norway and Iceland draw closer as Brexit looms

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, attends the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, January 18, 2017. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

OSLO (Reuters) - European Union outsiders Norway and Iceland must boost their policy coordination in response to Britain’s planned departure from the block, as well as other changes in global politics, the two Nordic countries said on Wednesday.

Along with Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland benefit from free movement of people, goods, services and capital within the EU market of 500 million people with Brussels setting rules that govern all aspects of the joint European Economic Area (EEA).

Britain plans to trigger divorce proceedings with the EU on March 29, launching two years of negotiations ahead of a departure that will also force a rebuilding of trading relations with other countries around the world.

“We must secure seamless continuation of the EEA cooperation with the EU while safeguarding our important interests in relations to Britain,” Norway’s EU Affairs Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen said in a statement.

In a joint statement, Bakke-Jensen and Icelandic Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thordarsson said the two countries would cooperate more closely in their efforts to promote their common interests.

“In this respect, Iceland and Norway will share information and develop common strategies, as appropriate, in order to work together in influencing EEA-relevant EU legislation,” the statement said.

In January, the EU’s top Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the interests of Norway and the other EEA countries would be a “priority” during the upcoming talks.

Reporting by Terje Solsvik; Editing by Alison Williams