After almost a year of negotiations, they have signed a trade agreement. The European Union and the United Kingdom agreed on a deal to regulate relationships between the British and members of the EU post Brexit. This Monday December 28, a post-Brexit agreement has been approved by the 27 EU representatives for application as of January 1, 2021. "EU Ambassadors have unanimously approved the provisional application of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement as of January 1, 2021" German chancellor's spokesman tweeted.
So far, the application of the agreement remains temporary up to February 28, 2021, MEPs are to settle early 2021. Anyway, "Dialogue continues with [The European Parliament] - fruitful exchanges this morning with Conference of Presidents" Michel Barnier tweeted. In the UK, the text is to be read this Wednesday December 30 by MPs.
Both parties are happy with this ending that comes right on time to avoid a “no deal”. In a press release, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen says: “It was worth fighting for this deal because we now have a fair and balanced agreement with the UK, which will protect our European interests, ensure fair competition, and provide much needed predictability for our fishing communities. Finally, we can leave Brexit behind us and look to the future. Europe is now moving on.”
This 1,246-page agreement includes a free trade agreement, that is a new economical and social partnership between the EU and the UK, a new partnership for citizens’ security (involving the cooperation between domestic police and judicial authorities) and a “horizontal agreement on governance”.
European Commission’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier regrets two things after signing this agreement: the Great-Britain not being part of the Erasmus program and the limit of freedom of movement within the Union.
Yet, this agreement will enable to keep the access to the United-Kingdom to EU Single Market without any quotas or customs duty. As for fishing, the topic that sparked many debates, the agreement plans a transition period until June 2026, at the end of which European fishermen are expected to have progressively gave up on 25% of their catches.
“No deal” avoided
This agreement enabled to avoid at the very last moment a no deal that would have had very heavy economical consequences for the United Kingdom. As a matter of fact, if the British export 47% of their products to Continental Europe, the EU only sells 8% of its products to the United-Kingdom. A few European countries would enjoy this trade deal with the British more: Ireland, Northern countries, Benelux, Germany and France (that cleared a 12.5 billion euros trade surplus in 2019 with London) are those keeping the tightest bonds with the United-Kingdom.
A French governmental source – quoted by France Info – has told AFP that the British have agreed on “huge concessions”. UK’s negotiators have especially agreed on giving up on very major topics as to fishing.
It was about finding an agreement to allow European fishermen to access British waters. Europe initially offered to lower catches in British waters to 25% over a six years’ period. The United Kingdom refused the offer, saying it was not enough. This topic was one of the ultimate issues blocking negotiations.
The United Kingdom has officially left the EU on January 31, 2020. A transition period then began during which the British remain subjected to the European rules, and to the trade agreements negotiated by the European Commission in the name of the Union state members and until December 31, 2020.
In the event no agreement was found, trade exchanges between both parties would have been – from January 1, 2021 – regulated by the rules of the World Trade Organization, rules far less advantageous than the ones negotiated here. A “no deal” would have occurred along with customs duty, quotas, and administrative procedures likely to have led to jams and delayed deliveries.