London: In a historic breakthrough, Britain and the European Union on Thursday struck a post-Brexit trade deal just days before the December 31 deadline. As per reports, Downing Street in London and European Union (EU) officials in Brussels have reached a provisional free-trade agreement that should avert New Year’s chaos for cross-border commerce and bring a measure of certainty to businesses after years of Brexit turmoil. ALSO READ | UK Detects Third Mutated Strain Of Coronavirus, This Time From South Africa; Lockdown Tightened
The deal was reportedly cracked earlier in the day with just over a week to go until the UK’s split is completed.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will shortly hold a press conference, announcing the agreement. It comes after months of wrangling in Brussels.
The deal is done. pic.twitter.com/zzhvxOSeWz
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) December 24, 2020
After the development, now comes the race to approve and ratify the deal before the Bretain leaves the European Union’s economic structures by the end of this year.
The deal is done!, a Downing Street source told news agency Reuters. “We have taken back control of our money, borders, laws, trade and our fishing waters,” he said.
Months of tense and often testy negotiations gradually whittled differences between the two sides down to three key issues – i. fair-competition rules; ii. mechanisms for resolving future disputes and; iii. fishing rights. The rights of EU boats to trawl in British waters remained the last obstacle before it was resolved.
However, it is being said that the key aspects of the future relationship between the 27-nation bloc and its former member still remain unresolved.
“We have got Brexit done and we can now take full advantage of the fantastic opportunities available to us as an independent trading nation, striking trade deals with other partners around the world,” Downing Street said in a statement.
“We have signed the first free trade agreement based on zero tariffs and zero quotas that has ever been achieved with the EU. The deal is the biggest bilateral trade deal signed by either side, covering trade worth GBP 668 billion in 2019,” it said, adding that the UK has taken back control of its “money, borders, laws, trade and our fishing waters”.
“The deal also guarantees that we are no longer in the lunar pull of the EU, we are not bound by EU rules, there is no role for the European Court of Justice and all of our key red lines about returning sovereignty have been achieved. It means that we will have full political and economic independence on 1st January 2021,” Downing Street declared.
However, on the other side, the EU said it has a good deal to show for the “long and winding road”.
According to early reports, both sides have come to a base agreement which would ensure most of the current tariff-free, quota-free arrangement but unlikely to mean entirely frictionless trade as businesses had hoped.
It has now been four and half years since Britain voted to exit the EU in a referendum in June 2016. It officially left at the end of January this year and entered into an 11-month transition period, or a phase of status quo, to hammer out a new free trade agreement.
While the Johnson-led government insisted that it would make the most of a no-deal Brexit too, there were widespread concerns that leaving without a deal and consequently having to trade on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms from January 1, 2021, would cause major hurdles for business and push up prices for consumers.
(With additional inputs from PTI)