Britain and the EU today announced that a historic, provisional Brexit free trade deal had been reached.
Following a gruelling 9-month negotiation, the two sides agreed to a provisional free tariff, free trade agreement – the biggest deal either side have ever achieved.
Announcing the deal in Brussels ahead of Boris Johnson’s press conference a short while after, Ursula von Der Leyen, the European Commission President, said there was “relief” among EU member states after reaching and agreement that would benefit both sides.
Among the contentious issues had been fisheries right until the last minute, where both sides compromised on quotas and access.
Other areas that proved difficult during the 9-month negotiations were the idea of a ‘level-playing field’ which nearly brought the talks to a standstill. However, a new arbitration mechanism, not presided over by the European Court of Justice was agreed should future standards diverge, providing each side with the option to retaliate in a “proportionate way” according to PM Boris Johnson.
In his press conference today following the Brexit deal, Johnson praised the new agreement in the backdrop of grim economic news and in particular the increased restrictions due to COVID-19 ahead of Christmas.
The Prime Minister said that the UK would remain close to the European Union as a friend and ally, tackling some of the most important issues including climate change.
When pressed on the issue of the student Erasmus programme coming to an end, which Michel Barnier said he regretted earlier in the day, Johnson announced a new replacement scheme for university students named after Alan Turing, which would come into effect next year and provide students access to educational programmes in the EU and around the world.
The news was however condemned by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who said, “there is no deal that will ever make up for what Brexit takes away from us.”
Despite the opposition from Scotland’s SNP party to the new deal, it is expected to receive support from a majority of the House of Commons including opposition party, Labour.
With the Brexit saga coming to an end, the UK and the EU will be relieved that a comprehensive free trade agreement has been reached on Christmas Eve, providing hope and certainty to businesses and European citizens as well as UK residents. The new agreement will tentatively come into effect on January 1st. The only question is whether the European and British Parliaments will have time in the coming days to ratify it before the transition period ends.