After months of negotiations and missed deadlines, the UK and EU have at last agreed on a much anticipated post-Brexit deal to outline their future relationship after the UK officially leaves the bloc on December 31.
The deal will “protect European interests,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, calling it “historic”
“We can finally leave Brexit behind us. Europe will continue to move forward,” she added.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that they had completed “the biggest trade deal yet…a comprehensive Canada-style free trade deal between the UK and the EU” with no quotas or tariffs.
“We’ve taken back control of our laws and our destiny,” Johnson added, stating that the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice would come to an end and that the UK would be an “independent coastal state”.
“The UK has chosen to leave the EU and the single market, to give up the rights and advantages of a member state,” said Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, at an earlier press conference.
“There will therefore be, despite this deal, real changes in the coming days… that is the consequence of Brexit.”
Von der Leyen said the EU had secured five and a half years of full predictability for the fishing community. Fishing rights was one of the final disagreements between the EU and UK.
She emphasised that the UK was now a “third country” but remained a “trusted partner”. She said that she felt relieved that a deal had been found.
One of the consequences is that the UK will pull out of Erasmus, Barnier said.
Negotiations lasted overnight
European Union and British negotiators worked through the night to put the finishing touches on a post-Brexit trade deal after nine months of talks.
European Commission Chief Spokesperson Eric Mamer tweeted around midnight that negotiations were continuing through the night, with reports of negotiators working to deliver the text to their leaders at dawn on Thursday.
Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson briefed his cabinet on the outlines of a tentative deal in a late-night conference call.
A diplomatic source told AFP news agency that “the British side was moving but the devil is in the details and we’re not quite there yet.”
A spokesperson for the German EU Council presidency asked that “EU Ambassadors to be available during Christmas period.”
Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin said in the early evening that “the signs are good” but that fishing rights “continues to be” a sticking point.
“But given all of the work that has been put into this and given the enormous time that has been put into the negotiations, there does seem to be a sense today that this is nearing a conclusion and hopefully that is the case,” he told RTE News.
Mr Johnson tweeted a picture of himself smiling with both thumbs lifted in the air
In a statement, Downing Street said: “Everything that the British public was promised during the 2016 referendum and in the general election last year is delivered by this deal.
“We have taken back control of our money, borders, laws, trade and our fishing waters.”
The UK government had “delivered this great deal for the entire United Kingdom in record time, and under extremely challenging conditions,” the statement added.
The deal will come as a major relief to many British businesses, already reeling from the impact of coronavirus, who feared disruption at the borders when the UK leaves EU trading rules next Thursday.
Down to the wire
The government’s economic watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, had warned that leaving without a deal would have shrunk the national income by 2% next year and led to major job losses.
There were also concerns it would lead to higher prices in the shops for many imported goods.
Negotiations in Brussels went down to the wire over what EU fishing boats are allowed to catch in UK waters. Fishing makes up just 0.12% of the UK’s economy.
There are still big question marks about what the deal will mean for the rest of British business.
Firms that trade with the 27 member states have carried on as normal for the past year during the so-called transition period that kicked in when Britain left the EU.
They will still face extra paperwork when the country leaves the EU single market and customs union next week.
But the threat of tariffs – import taxes – between the UK and its biggest trading partner will be removed.