BRUSSELS (AP) – A week before the deadline, Britain and the European Union signed a free trade agreement on Thursday to avoid a New Year’s economic turmoil and bring some level of reassurance to businesses after years of Brexit turmoil.
Once the two sides agree, Britain and the 27-nation alliance will ensure trade in goods without tariffs or quotas after the UK’s complete exemption from the EU on January 1.
Those nine months of tense and often test negotiations finally yielded a positive result.
The progress of Christmas Eve was doubly welcomed amid a corona virus epidemic that killed about 70,000 people in the UK and led to the closure of the country’s neighbors to the UK due to the new and seemingly contagious variation of the virus spreading in the UK.
“We have regained control of our laws and our destiny,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced after posting a picture of himself on social media, pointing the finger.
European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen said: “It was a long and winding road, but we have a good deal to show for it.”
“It’s fair, it’s a balanced agreement, it’s the right and responsible thing for both parties to do,” he told Brussels.
EU member states and the British and European parliaments must vote on the agreement, although EU action will not take place after January 1. The UK Parliament is set to vote on Dec. 30.
France, which has long seen Britain as a difficult obstacle to a deal, said the bizarre commitment between the 27 countries, which have widely different interests, was a victory.
“European unity and stability have paid off,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the unity of all EU countries now supports this agreement: “I am very confident that we can present a good result here.”
It is 4 1/2 years since Britain voted 52% to 48% to leave the EU – in the words of the Brexiters’ campaign slogan – “regain control” of UK borders and laws.
Last January there were more than three years of clashes between Britain to leave the political structures of the coalition. It took several months to sever the economies of both sides and adjust Britain’s desire for independence with the aim of the EU safeguarding its unity.
The devil will be in the details of the 2,000-page deal, but both sides said the deal protects their cherished goals. He said Britain was giving the UK control over its money, borders, laws and fishing grounds, ensuring that the country was “no longer in the EU’s lunar drag.”
Van der Leyen said it protects the EU’s single market and has protections to ensure that Britain does not unjustly reduce the quality of the camp.
If Britain leaves the EU without any agreement governing trade, both sides will re-establish tariffs on each other’s goods.
Johnson’s government acknowledged that the chaotic non-contractual evacuation – or “failure” as the British call it – would cause a phase in the country’s ports, a temporary shortage of some goods and higher food prices. The turmoil will also cost hundreds of thousands of jobs.
To avoid that, the alternate negotiations between London and Brussels – and sometimes the plague – gradually reduced the differences between the two sides to three main things: fair-competition rules, mechanisms for resolving future conflicts, and fisheries rights.
The EU has long feared that Britain would cut social, environmental and government aid rules after Brexit and gain more competitive advantage than the EU. Britain rejects plans to establish weak standards, but said compliance with EU rules would undermine its sovereignty.
A compromise was finally reached on the tricky “level playground” issues. This left the financially small but very large coding issue of fishing rights as the final sticking point, as maritime EU countries long sought to retain access to fish-caught UK waters.
Under the agreement, the EU will give up a quarter of the UK’s water catch, much less than the 80% initially demanded by Britain. The system will be phased out in 5 1/2 years, after which the allocations will be re-evaluated.
The UK has been part of the EU’s single market and customs union for the 11 months since the Brexit transition. As a result, so far many have noticed little impact from Brexit.
On Jan. 1, the split will begin to feel real. Even with a trade agreement, goods and people can no longer move freely between the UK and its continental neighbors without border controls.
EU citizens can no longer live and work in the UK without visas – although this does not apply to the 4 million already made – Britain can no longer work or retire automatically in EU countries. Exporters and importers face customs notices, goods checks and other restrictions.
British manufacturers and traders welcomed the commitment made by this agreement. But economists said other parts of the economy – especially Britain’s largest service sector – would be left in the cold.
David Heinick, trade expert at the European Center for International Political Economy, January 1 “marks the end of free trade between the UK and the EU. ”
“The difference in making a trade deal is not obvious to most people from that,” he said. “New barriers are what people pay more attention to.”
As the new version of the corona virus spreads through London and the south of England, the UK-EU border has already been removed from the new restrictions imposed on travelers from Britain to France and other European countries.
Thousands of lorries were stuck in traffic near the port of Dover on Wednesday as their drivers waited to receive virus tests so they could enter the eurodonal into France. He said it would take days for British supermarkets to clear the backlink and there may be a shortage of some new products during the holidays.
Despite the agreement, there are still unanswered questions about vast areas, including security cooperation between Britain and the camp – the UK could lose access to real-time information in some EU law enforcement databases – and access to the EU market is Britain’s largest financial services sector.
Van der Leyen said he felt “quiet satisfaction” but was not happy, and now the horrific Brexit saga that had consumed Britain and the EU for years was finally over.
“I know this is a difficult day for some, and I would like to say to our friends in the United Kingdom that it is such a sweet sadness that I am leaving,” he said.
Johnson, who has earned his career and reputation for separating the country from the EU, said Britain would always be a strong friend and partner in the alliance.
“Even if we leave the EU, this country will remain culturally, emotionally, historically, strategically and geographically connected to Europe,” he said.
Lawless report from London.
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