In his office at the Rue Varembé in Geneva, Henri Getaz, the secretary general of the European Free Trade Association, has a file tucked away in his desk ready for emergencies. The secret document is simply marked, and goes something like this: “Britain’s application to join EFTA.”
In the file, there is a timetable for if and when the UK decides to rejoin Efta. This is the four-nation trade alliance which includes Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, and of which Britain was a founder member in 1960. As well as its precisely prepared timings, the document includes a legal analysis of how an application to become a full member of Efta could be swiftly expedited.
Nothing has been left out, or to chance. It’s not that the Efta secretariat boss knows something that we don’t – that the UK is on the brink of joining – but that he wants to be ready and welcoming should the UK so decide.