The prime minister has hailed the “unprecedented” post-Brexit trade deal finally reached with the EU after an acrimonious four and half year long divorce.
Full details of the £660 billion EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement are yet to be published but the deal allows for tariff-free trade in goods from January 2021 – next week – although terms for financial services firms remain unresolved.
Boris Johnson said: “We will be an independent coastal state with full control of our waters,” Mr Johnson said, before adding excitedly that Britain is now a “truly independent nation”.
“We have taken back control of laws and our destiny,” said Johnson. “We have taken back control of every jot and tittle of our regulation in a way that is complete and unfettered.”
The late announcement – one week before the end of the transition period – “prompted companies around the UK to scramble for details about what it will mean for their operations”, reports the Financial Times, adding British businesses have welcomed the trade deal.
Starmer ‘accepts’ the deal
Sir Keir Starmer broadcast his response to the deal and tweeted: “Labour accepts this deal and we will vote for it. We must now build a better future for our country and make Britain the best place to grow up in and the best place to grow old in.”
Michel Barnier summed up the relief of many, stating: “The clock is no longer ticking.”
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator said the deal will “preserve peace and stability on the island of Ireland” and “build a new partnership with the UK”.
‘A good compromise that protects the Good Friday Agreement’
Ireland’s taoiseach Michael Martin also welcomed the deal, calling it a “good compromise” that protects the Good Friday Agreement.
Martin expressed again that he “deeply regrets” the UK’s decision to leave the EU and added: “However, as we now approach the end of the transition period, I wish the UK well in this new chapter in its history.”
“The UK will always be a close friend and partner. Our people, our histories and our economies are deeply entwined. As we move into the next phase of our relationship, we will work together to ensure that it remains deep and strong.”
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, pinned the following to the top of her Twitter account: “The UK remains a trusted partner. We will stand shoulder to shoulder to deliver on our common global goals. But now let’s turn the page and look to the future. To all Europeans I say: it is time to leave Brexit behind. Our future is made in Europe.”
A ‘grieving EU’, or did the PM ‘cave in on fish’?
The Telegraph’s lobby team are in no doubt the deal is a big win for the UK, securing “its sovereignty from a grieving EU.” Janet Daley writes: “The press conferences told the real story of who had won most. Ursula von der Leyen and Michel Barnier looked as if they were delivering memorial speeches at a funeral”.
The Independent is less triumphalist, with Allie Renison writing: “it is farcical how little time businesses now have to adapt to a Brexit deal still short on detail”, while another column in the same paper says the deal was struck after the PM “caved in on fish”.
Harrods contributes more to GDP than totemic UK fishing industry
Fishing proved one of the major blocks to securing a deal, despite the industry accounting for just 0.12% of the UK’s GDP – less than the contribution of London department store Harrods.
Yet the sector is totemic for Brexiters and it was no coincidence that Johnson wore a fish themed tie during today’s press conference to announce the deal and state: “For the first time since 1973 we will be an independent coastal state with full control of our waters.”
Reports say the deal provides a five-year transition period for EU fishermen to adjust to reductions of 25% – far less than the 60% pursued by the UK. It is also believed the UK conceded on its demands to exclude EU boats from its exclusive 12 mile economic zone.
‘We’ve been sacrificed for the deal’ claim fishermen
“In the end it was clear that Boris Johnson wanted an overall trade deal and was willing to sacrifice fishing,” surmised Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO).
Deas told the PA news agency: “The broad feeling is that the UK has made significant concessions on fish in order to secure a trade deal. I think the industry will be extremely disappointed.”
He claimed the increases in quota from the EU “don’t come anywhere close to what our entitlement is in international law”, and added the deal will be a source of “frustration and anger across the industry”.
Brexit reality is ‘lots more red tape, bureaucracy and paperwork’
The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) chief executive Tavish Scott said: “We are pleased the negotiators have at last secured a deal. This will alleviate some of the serious problems that would come from a ‘no deal’ Brexit.”
However, the sector faces “faces the reality of lots more red tape, bureaucracy and paperwork,” said Scott, “which are the reality of the extra trade barriers which come with Brexit.”
He added it will be impossible to “make a clear judgement” on how the deal will affect Scottish salmon until it is seen how it “actually works in practice”.
Getlink’s ‘digital wallet’ to cross borders
Getlink, the operator of the Eurotunnel welcomed the deal which will “benefit both businesses and travellers alike”, with chairman Jacques Gounon saying the company is “very well placed to benefit from this agreement.”
Getlink has also unveiled the details of the Eurotunnel Border Pass – a “virtual wallet” for hauliers to automatically communicate all necessary details for customs declarations and other certificates and requirements post-Brexit.
“It is secure and digitised, and the truck driver does not even have to leave the cab or present any documents on arriving at the border,” states the Eurotunnel website.