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Brexit: "The deal is done"

After 11 months of negotiating Brussels and London reached an agreement on future relations

by: Isti Miskolczy

"This is the feast" - said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Christmas Day while holding up a pile of documents that seemed to be around 2000 pages altogether. He was referring to the freshly made agreement between the EU and the UK on the future relations of the two blocs after the official departure of the UK from the EU on the 31st of December. With that, eleven months of negotiating came to an end and a no-deal Brexit was explicitly ruled out, starting a new chapter in the life of the UK and the EU.

Photo courtesy of stux via Pixabay.

"Europe is moving on" - EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted not so long after the first news had come in about the agreement. "We now have a fair and balanced agreement with the UK. It will protect our EU interests, ensure fair competition, and provide predictability to our fishing communities." - she also tweeted.

"It was a long road" - von der Leyen opened her press conference on the matter.

Indeed, Brexit had started when the British public voted in favour of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union in 2016 in a referendum initiated by then-Prime Minister David Cameron. His successor Theresa May invoked Article 50 in March 2017 and set the 29 of March 2019 as the day of the exit. Her deal, however, was voted down multiple times in Westminster which lead to her resigning and Boris Johnson becoming the new Prime Minister. Mr Johnson - after a snap general elections - delivered a mutually accepted exit deal in October 2019. With that, the UK officially left the European Union on the 31st of January 2020 and evoked the so-called transition period which was to have the two parties agreeing on a new form of cooperation. With only a week left to the deadline and a possibility of a no-deal Brexit, this was now finally delivered and the UK will officially leave the EU.

Nevertheless, von der Leyen also emphasized that the UK will remain a trusted partner and with the EU they will "stand shoulder to shoulder to deliver on our common global goals".

"To all Europeans I say: it is time to leave Brexit behind. Our future is made in Europe" - she added. This future is outlined in the agreement said to be around 2000 pages long. However, up to date only extracts have been published, so here is briefly what we know so far:

1) Trade

Based on international and not EU law, the two parties have agreed that there will be no tariffs or quotas on the movement of goods between the UK and the EU if they meet the appropriate rules of origin. Actually, this is the first time the EU has agreed to a zero-tariff deal with any other third country. The agreement also allows "EU inputs and processing to be counted as UK input in UK products exported to the EU and vice versa". There will be special rules applied for medical products, car parts, organic products, alcohol, and chemicals.

The agreement also includes "well-established provisions on cross-border trade in services and investment that will secure continued market access across a broad range of sectors, including professional and business services, financial services and transport services, and will support new and continued foreign direct investment." "This will provide many UK service suppliers with legal guarantees that they will not face barriers to trade when selling into the EU and will support the mobility of UK professionals who will continue to do business across the EU" - claims the extract document uploaded to the website of the British Government.

The EU State Aid regime will cease to exist in the UK as London sets out to introduce its own subsidy system to support British businesses and industries.

2) Travel and Aviation

UK nationals will need a visa to any of the EU member states if they wish to spend more than 90 days there in a 180 days period and vice versa. In the UK, only passports will be accepted as a form of identification in case of those who are not in the possession of a pre-settled or settled status. EHIC cards will be valid until their expiration date and are said to be replaced with a new Global Health Insurance Card, however, no details of such have been released yet. Driving licences will, but other qualifications and EU pet passports will not be recognised anymore. There is no exact agreement on the prices of mobile roaming services between the UK and the EU countries.

"UK airlines may lease aircraft and crew from UK or EU airlines and other providers to operate air transport services between the UK and the EU." "Minor changes and repairs to aeronautical products and designs that are approved in the UK will be automatically accepted by the EU." "UK production certificates and oversight will be automatically recognised by the EU providing that the relevant aeronautical products were subject to UK oversight before the end of December 2020." - highlights the same extract.

Photo courtesy of John McArthur via Unsplash.

3) Fishing

As the extract describes, "the UK is now free to create its own laws and fisheries management practices to the benefit of fishers and coastal communities across the whole UK". The Agreement also sets out a raise in fishing quotas for UK fishers worth 25% of the value of EU catch in British waters.

This will be executed through a five and a half years long period, though the EU had asked for a much longer period. This move is said to be ending the dependence of the UK fleet on the EU Common Fisheries Policy, although the UK is said to be planning on conducting annual fishing negotiations with the EU in the future.

Upon the expiration of the five and a half years long transition period, the UK is said to be regaining full control over its waters inasmuch as London will be able to make much bigger cuts in the number of fishing boats and quotas on UK waters if they wish.

4) European Court of Justice

The ECJ will no longer play a role in the United Kingdom. It will not oversee the agreement either. The only part of the EU-UK relations where the ECJ will have authority is the case of Northern Ireland, which - according to the Brexit withdrawal agreement - will have a special status in order to avoid the re-establishment of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

5) Security

Fingerprints and DNA data will be shared. Criminal records data will also be exchanged. The UK will not be a member of but will be a close cooperator with the Europol.

6) Participation in EU Programmes

The UK is said to be continuing its participation in Horizon Europe, Euratom Research and Training, and Copernicus. British participation in the Erasmus Programme - concerning many students in the United Kingdom - will be ceased. Instead, a new programme named after Alan Turing will be created to ensure some sort of exchange in between university students of the UK and other countries.

Photo courtesy of Guillaume Périgois via Unsplash.

As the exit date is quickly approaching, more and more details of the agreement are getting revealed. It is crucially important to have these known in order to ensure that all individuals and businesses prepare for the UK's departure from the block.


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