Britain faces a new chapter on Friday after signing a highly competitive post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union. The EU envoys waited to be briefed on an agreement that was only reached after months of lengthy negotiations.
From January 1st, the country will no longer fall from a “cliff” of trade and avoid a mountain of tariffs and quotas.
But big changes are inevitable as the UK leaves the EU’s single market for good and free movement with the bloc ends after nearly half a century of integration.
Britain has been in a period of transition to a deadlock since it formally left the EU on January 31, which was still subject to the bloc’s rules.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson stood in a video message in front of a Christmas tree on Downing Street late Thursday, praising the hundreds of pages of text as “good business for all of Europe” and a “gift” for Britain.
The address was “a victory speech,” Anand Menon, UK director at a think tank for European change, told AFP.
“Boris Johnson was elected Prime Minister to achieve Brexit. He has now finally closed Brexit,” said Menon.
Johnson has been heavily criticized for his management of the country’s coronavirus outbreak, which has killed nearly 70,000 people to date, the highest number in Europe.
Thousands of trucks have been secured in canal ports in recent days after France and other European partners blocked crossings over increasing cases of a new variant of the virus believed to be spreading faster.
Some suggested that the transportation chaos that sparked fears of a shortage of fresh produce could be a glimpse of what the country would expect if it broke out of the EU’s single market without a deal.
The EU has offered the UK unprecedented duty-free and quota-free access to its internal market of 450 million consumers.
But in return it has secured London’s commitment to complying with its ever-evolving rules in some areas such as environmental protection, labor regulations and taxation to avoid Britain from undercutting companies within the bloc.
The UK has also committed to guaranteeing that it will not abuse state aid to businesses to gain an unfair advantage.
It was the fish issue that emerged as the final stumbling block this week as London pushed to reduce the share of EU fishing fleets in the estimated annual transport of € 650 million (€ 586 million, US $ 790 million) by more than a third to reduce.
The final agreement envisaged a 25 percent cut that would be rolled out gradually over a period of five and a half years.
EU officials have promised to support their fisheries sector through the painful cuts, a major disadvantage of an agreement which EU Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen described as “fair and balanced”.
With the agreement now shared with the bloc’s 27 member countries, their ambassadors will meet in Brussels on Christmas Day.
It is expected that it will take them two or three days to analyze the agreement and decide whether to approve its preliminary implementation.
“Relief instead of celebration”
For Britain, “the fact that a deal was struck at all is in many ways a remarkable achievement,” the Times wrote.
Still, the final package was “more of a source of relief than celebration,” it added, with new restrictions, including an end to free movement for European workers to the UK and for Brits to the EU.
Young people will be affected by the UK’s withdrawal from the cross-continental Erasmus student exchange program, which is being replaced with a native program named after pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing.
“The deal is hardly the end of the process. After (Johnson) delivers on his promise to achieve Brexit, his challenge is to succeed,” warned the Times.
The left-wing guard was tougher, saying, “Johnson deserves no credit for avoiding a calamity that was so close because he was driving towards it so eagerly.”
Indeed, the newspaper added, the deal “mandates an immediate downgrade of the UK economy”.
British MPs will debate the text of the deal on Wednesday, but there is no doubt that it will be approved after the opposition Labor Party pledges its support.
On the European side, the provisional approval by the national capitals must be followed by a vote in the European Parliament in early 2021.
(This story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)