By Susy Hodges
In what has been a typical feature of the whole Brexit process, the negotiations between the EU and Britain to reach the trade deal went down to the wire. The long and often fraught negotiations saw a number of earlier deadlines for a deal to be struck fall by the wayside because the two sides were still far apart. In the end, the agreement was achieved just seven days before Britain officially leaves the EU following a transition period this year.
Both sides have hailed the deal with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying his government had taken back control of the nation’s laws and destiny. He described the deal as a “jumbo” free trade deal along the lines of that done between the European Union and Canada. The European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said it was “a long and winding road” but they had got a good, fair and balanced deal.
Crucially, the agreement will preserve Britain’s access to the EU’s single market with no extra tariffs on goods and no quotas on the amount that can be traded between the two sides from January 1st. However there will be extra checks at borders such as customs declarations so this means more red tape and more costs for businesses exporting to mainland Europe.
The deal will also support the peace in Northern Ireland. This is a priority for the U.S. President-elect Joe Biden who had warned Johnson that he must uphold the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
The trade deal needs the approval of both the European Parliament and the EU’s 27 member states. The British parliament has announced it will debate and vote on the deal on December 30th, just one day before the transition period lapses.