Britain and the EU have sealed a Christmas trade deal, a new economic and security deal that both sides hope will allow them to rebuild their relationship after years of Brexit acrimony.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, have won the agreement after nine months of negotiations, culminating in a Christmas Eve bargaining over fishing rights.
The optimistic Mr Johnson said Britain had achieved its negotiating goals: “We have regained control of our laws and our destiny,” he said. He added that it was “a good deal for all of Europe”.
The mood in Brussels was more subdued, with Ms von der Leyen saying one of her main feelings was ‘relief’ that ‘we can finally put Brexit behind us’. “To our friends in the UK, I want to say that separation is such a sweet pain,” she added.
The European side claimed to have defended its interests in a negotiation in which it sought to prevent the aggressive undercutting of its activities and to defend its fishermen.
Ms von der Leyen said: “The negotiations were very difficult. A lot of people were at stake. ”The deal would lay“ a solid foundation for a new start, ”she added.
The agreement will enter into force on January 1, ensuring tariff-free trade on most products and creating a platform for future cooperation on issues such as tackling crime, energy and sharing of goods. data.
In a sign that the deal could calm the bitter debate over Europe that has dominated British politics for decades, Brexit party leader Nigel Farage said: “On the big issues the war is over.”
Mr Johnson said the deal would end the grudge of the past few years and allow Britain to act as a “flying buttress” for the EU. A relieved Michel Barnier, who led tense Brexit negotiations for the EU for more than four years, simply wrote on Twitter: “Time is running out.
The pound had traded near its year highs against the dollar on Thursday as expectations grew for a deal to be announced. The currency rose 0.5% at the start of the London session to $ 1.3559 before slowing slightly to close at $ 1.354.
While the deal is not close to replicating Britain’s existing trade relationship with the EU – the UK is leaving the customs union and the single market – it was welcomed by business groups.
The deal means the two sides have negotiated an amicable divorce that should help ease potential chaos at the border on January 1, when trade will be subject to customs declarations and checks.
This is the biggest trade deal the UK is likely to make: in 2019 Britain has sold £ 294 billion in goods and services to the EU, or 43 percent of the country’s total exports. More than half of Britain’s imports, worth £ 374 billion, came from the bloc of 27 countries.
However, the deal doesn’t do much for services and Pascal Lamy, former head of the World Trade Organization, noted that it was the first trade negotiation in history that began with the free trade and focused on building barriers.
Mr Johnson admitted that the deal did not do “as much as we would have liked” for financial services. The EU, which has a large merchandise trade surplus with the UK, felt it got a good deal.
Both sides have compromised. While the deal eschews any oversight role for the European Court of Justice, as Mr Johnson had promised, it also contained mechanisms to protect the EU from unfair competition which trade experts said exceeded those found. in any other EU trade agreement.
“This is stronger than previous Europe agreements and much stronger than what the UK wanted,” said David Henig, director of the UK Trade Policy Project and former trade negotiator. “The exact details will be important, but it will certainly be an incentive for the UK to stay broadly aligned on labor, environment and state aid.”
The 500-page deal was sealed after overnight talks over the allocation of post-Brexit fishing rights in UK waters, which continued until Thursday afternoon.
The UK parliament will meet in emergency session on December 30 to pass the legislation needed to enshrine the deal into UK law. Keir Starmer, Labor leader, said his party would back the deal, confirming that it would be approved by a huge majority.
“Against no deal, we accept this deal,” Sir Keir said Thursday. But speaking to the government, he added: “The consequences are yours and yours alone. We will hold you accountable, every second that you are in power. The responsibility for this agreement lies squarely at the door of number 10. “
The European Parliament will only approve the deal in January, which means it will be applied provisionally from the start of the new year until MEPs sign it.
What happens next?
December 25 – Ambassadors from the 27 EU member states will meet to discuss the Brexit trade deal with Michel Barnier, the bloc’s chief negotiator, on Christmas morning. The College of Commissioners will propose that EU governments, after reading and analyzing the trade deal in their national cabinets, agree to provisionally apply its terms from January 1, 2021. EU diplomats have said that the legal process in capitals could take a few days but be completed before the end of the year. This would mean that the tariff-free, quota-free agreement is in place before the end of the transition period on December 31.
By December 31 – The EU and the UK will hold a signing ceremony to mark the agreement of the free trade agreement.
December 30 – The UK House of Commons will debate and vote on a ‘Future Relations Bill’. MPs are expected to overwhelmingly endorse the treaty, putting the relevant legislation into the UK’s statute book.
January 1 – The Brexit transition period ends and the UK leaves the EU’s single market and customs union. The trade deal will have taken “provisional effect”, pending full approval by the European Parliament, removing the need for border tariff payments. New customs forms and controls threaten chaos, but the goodwill created by the trade deal could ease hardship at ports.
January / February – The European Parliament will analyze the terms of the agreement. Its separate trade and foreign affairs committees will give their opinion ahead of a final vote, which will likely take place in early February. MEPs will have to give their consent for the agreement to be a ‘only European’ agreement, meaning that it will not need ratification in the parliaments of national member states. MEPs are expected to vote overwhelmingly in favor of the deal and, in doing so, complete the necessary ratification process to allow the deal to take full legal effect.