The European Union and the UK signed a trade deal on Thursday after Brexit to cushion the economic blow of the UK’s impending exit from the internal market after ten months of negotiations.
“A deal is closed,” tweeted British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“We have finally found an agreement,” said the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.
“It was a long and winding road, but in the end we got a good deal,” she said. “The single market will be fair and will stay that way.”
The deal is closed. pic.twitter.com/zzhvxOSeWz
– Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) December 24, 2020
Britain officially left the EU in January following a sweeping referendum in 2016, the first country to part ways with the political and economic project that emerged as the continent rebuilt after World War II.
London will remain bound by EU rules for a transitional period that will last until midnight on December 31. Then Britain will leave the single market and the bloc’s customs union.
The final 2,000-page deal was held up by last-minute fisheries disputes as both sides haggled over EU fishermen’s access to UK waters after the end of the year.
After the political agreement has been announced, the von der Leyen Commission will send the text to the EU member states.
It is expected that it will take them two or three days to analyze the agreement and decide whether to approve its preliminary implementation.
The UK Parliament will also have to suspend its year-end vacation to vote on the deal before the December 31 deadline.
Once signed and the text published in the EU’s Official Journal, it will come into force on January 1st, when the UK has left the bloc’s internal market.
The European Parliament will then have the option to retrospectively approve the deal sometime in 2021, EU officials said.
Battery of new regulations
Assuming the process goes as planned, the negotiating teams agreed the mammoth deal in record time.
And the deal in the 11th hour runs counter to the danger that after 47 years of shared history, Great Britain could leave the club without any further rules.
With the UK outside the EU’s single market and customs area, cross-channel merchants will still face a number of new regulations and delays.
Economists expect both economies, already weakened by the coronavirus epidemic, to take a hit as supply chains break and costs rise.
However, the risk of a return to tariffs will be removed and relations between the former partners will be on a more secure footing.
It is also a success for Von der Leyen and her negotiator Michel Barnier, who had intensive talks with the British David Frost for almost ten months.
After the 2016 referendum, in which British voters decided to leave the union, the Brexiteers boasted that they could win the “easiest trade deal in history”.
The argument was that after so long in business, the economies would be a good match by EU standards and regulations.
However, European capitals feared their companies would face unfair competition if such a big rival on their doorstep deregulated its industry.
Brussels insisted that the only way to keep the land border between Ireland and Britain open was to keep Northern Ireland, a British province, within its customs union.
And members did not want to give up access to the UK’s rich fishing waters that support fleets in France, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland and the Netherlands.
It was the question of the fish that emerged as the final stumbling block this week when Member States – led by France – turned down a British offer.
London urged that the EU fishing fleets’ share of the estimated annual transport volume of € 650 million should be reduced by more than a third, the changes being made gradually over more than three years.
The EU, especially countries with northern fishing fleets such as France, Denmark and the Netherlands, insisted on 25 percent for at least six years.
It is not yet clear what the numbers will be in the final agreement, but European diplomats insisted they would not have signed it if the UK had not given a reason.
Barnier informed ambassadors and then senior MEPs on Tuesday that he had made his last bid on fish and that it was now up to the political leaders to decide.
This sparked a round of phone calls between Johnson and von der Leyen that led to the pre-Christmas compromise on Wednesday night.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and posted from a syndicated feed.)