UK-EU agree on Brexit deal week before transition period ends
With just a week to go before the Brexit transition period ends, the United Kingdom and the European Union have agreed on a historic trade deal. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Thursday that the EU now has a "fair and balanced agreement" with the UK. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed, "The deal is done." Here are more details.
Addressing a press conference, von der Leyen said, "We now have a fair and balanced agreement with the UK. It will protect our EU interests, ensure fair competition, and provide predictability for our fishing communities." She said it is time to leave Brexit behind and Europe is "moving on." A hard Brexit—a sharp, disorderly split—would have hit the UK harder than Europe, she said.
She said there are strong measures within the deal that can be taken in case one party does not comply with the rules. There will be a review after four years to ensure compliance on both sides, she said, adding that there are strong safeguards to ensure incentives for both sides. "In the fishery field, we made a huge step forward," she said.
In his statement, Johnson celebrated the completion of the biggest trade deal yet worth £166 billion a year. He said the deal will protect jobs, allow UK goods to be sold without tariffs/quotas in Europe, and allow more business with Europe. "Yet it achieves taking back control of our laws," he added. "From January 1, we are outside the customs union and single market."
Former UK PM David Cameron—who had called the referendum on leaving the EU—tweeted, "Trade deal is very welcome - and a vital step in building a new relationship with the EU as friends, neighbors, and partners." Welcoming the news, Theresa May—who succeeded Cameron as PM and resigned over Brexit—tweeted, "Looking forward to seeing the details in the coming days."
The UK will stop following the EU trading rules on December 31, which is when the 11-month transition period for Brexit ends. It cannot be extended beyond that date. The two sides were supposed to strike a deal before the date, however, major disagreements over fishing rights, business competition rules, and how a deal will be policed remain.
Earlier this month, Downing Street had said that "very large gaps" remain between the two sides, despite months of negotiations. Last week, however, von der Leyen gave hope that a "narrow path" existed to reaching an agreement. At the time, she had said that issues pertaining to the level playing field and the fisheries remained unresolved but assured that they will continue trying.