A post-Brexit trade deal worth £660 billion a year was agreed on Christmas eve, marking a new era after more than 40 years of UK membership of the European Union.
The deal was settled exactly one week before the UK is due to exit the EU’s single market and customs union on December 31, and some four-and-a-half years after a slim majority of Britons voted to take the UK out of the EU’s orbit. A referendum on the country's EU membership in June 2016 showed 52% in favor of leaving the bloc.
The text of the agreement- more than a thousand pages of dense legal text outlines how the relationship will operate in the future.
Speaking shortly after the deal was agreed in Brussels on Thursday (Dec. 24), UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
"We've taken back control of our laws and our destiny...from January 1, we are outside the customs union and outside the single market; British laws will be made solely by the British parliament, interpreted by the UK judges sitting in UK courts; and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will come to an end."
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen commented: “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.”
Key points from the deal:
Zero tariffs and zero quotas on all goods that comply with the appropriate rules of origin.
Citizens of the UK and EU will no longer be able to enjoy free movement to live, work and study between the two areas.
Border checks will apply between the UK and EU member states
There will be no hard border on the island of Ireland between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland
The UK will be able to further develop British fishing activities, while the activities and livelihoods of European fishing communities will be safeguarded, and natural resources preserved.
A shared commitment to protecting the environment, to fight against climate change and carbon pricing
A shared commitment to protecting social and labor rights
Keeping standards on tax transparency
Passenger rights, workers' rights and transport safety are not undermined.
UK's continued participation in a number of flagship EU programmes for the period 2021-2027 (subject to a financial contribution by the UK to the EU budget), such as Horizon Europe.
Here are some of the reactions from around the world to the much-awaited deal:
A U.S. State Department official said the United States supported the UK “in its sovereign decision to depart the EU”. “And we look forward to continued strong relationships with both the UK and EU,” the official said, adding the US was “committed to negotiating a comprehensive free trade agreement with the UK”.
China’s state-owned Global Times said the deal was “a Christmas gift not only for the British economy but also for the Covid-19-battered global financial market”. The editorial said the world’s markets were still struggling with the pandemic, and looking for “less chaos”.
In Japan, Finance Minister Taro Aso welcomed the new deal, saying: “It should be highly valued that a broad agreement was clinched between the two.”
EU leaders, the European parliament, and the UK government will all need to now approve the agreement on their own.