A jubilant Boris Johnson has hailed the “immense moment” in Britain’s history as the long-running Brexit trade impasse between the UK and the EU is finally broken.
A jubilant Boris Johnson has hailed the “immense moment” in Britain’s history as the long-running Brexit trade impasse between the UK and the EU is finally broken.

There's been a huge development in Brexit negotiations

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the "immense moment" Britain took back control of the country's destiny as he finally sealed a Brexit deal with the European Union.

The UK and the EU struck the last-minute trade deal on Christmas Eve (local time) after 10 months of intense negotiation allowed them to soften the economic shock of Brexit.

When the UK leaves the EU single market at the New Year it will not now face tariffs on cross-Channel commerce, despite breaking off half a century of close partnership.

"We've taken back control of our laws and our destiny. We've taken back control of every jot and tittle of our regulation in a way that is complete, and unfettered," Mr Johnson declared.

Mr Johnson vowed it was now up to Britain "as a newly and truly independent nation to realise the immensity of this moment and to make the most of it" as he revealed a pact to trade freely with Brussels from next year.

Four years, five months and 29 days after the British people voted to leave the EU, Mr Johnson declared Britain would finally be able to set their own rules from January 1 and strike out on their own - after 40 years shackled to Brussels.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen was more measured.

"At the end of a successful negotiations journey I normally feel joy. But today, I only feel quiet satisfaction and, frankly speaking, relief," she said, citing British playwright Shakespeare: "Parting is such sweet sorrow."

And she urged the 440 million Europeans remaining in the 27-nation union to put the drama of the four years since Britain's Brexit referendum behind them and to look to the future.

"I say it is time to leave Brexit behind. Our future is made in Europe," she said.

Britain formally left the EU in January after a divisive referendum in 2016, the first country to split from the political and economic project that was born as the continent rebuilt in the aftermath of World War II.

But London remains tied to the EU's rules during a transition period that runs until midnight on December 31, when the UK will leave the bloc's single market and customs union.

According to The Sun, Mr Johnson promised this deal will benefit the whole of Europe, too.

In a promise to Brussels he added: "This deal means a new certainty. We will be your friend, your ally, your supporter, and indeed, never let it be forgotten, your number one market."

He described it as a "jumbo Canada style free trade deal" which resolves deeply routed discomfort with the European Union.

 

 

"I think we were told we couldn't have our cake and eat it," he quipped.

"It's what the country needs at this time, and the right way forward for the UK."

He vowed his deal would achieve something which the people "was told was impossible".

The PM poked gentle fun at the EU with a fish-print tie after talks went down to the wire over fisheries.

The issue was one of the last sticking points between negotiators - and looked set to de-rail a deal just days ago.

Mr Johnson tweeted a picture of himself smiling with both thumbs lifted in the air ahead of his press conference.

"The deal is done," he wrote.

Downing Street promised that "everything promised in the 2016 referendum was now delivered - and we would finally take back control of our money, borders, laws, fishing waters and trade".

"The deal is fantastic news for families and businesses in every part of the UK. 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 £668bn ($A1.1 trillion) in 2019."

 

The record-breaking accord was forged in less than a year- after the withdrawal deal was signed off in January - and will allow free trade to continue without tariffs or quotas in a major win for Britain.

It means Britain will avoid a No Deal exit and trade will continue to flow; protecting jobs and allowing Brits to still enjoy holidays and low food prices.

The UK will finally cut ties with the bloc's red tape, rules and meddlesome EU judges as promised in the historic 2016 referendum 1,645 days ago, while allowing business and trade to flourish around the globe.

And in a major concession, Brussels has dropped demands for powers to hit British goods with tariffs if we shut EU boats out of our waters in future.

 

'SOLID FOUNDATIONS'

The final 2000-page agreement was held up by a last-minute dispute over fishing as both sides haggled over the access EU fishermen will get to Britain's waters after the end of the year.

Ms von der Leyen said that although the UK would become a "third country" it would be a trusted partner.

Mr Johnson - who rode to power pledging to "get Brexit done" - insisted it was a "good deal for the whole of Europe and for our friends and partners as well".

"It will not be a bad thing in my view to have a prosperous, dynamic and contented UK on your doorstep," he said from Downing Street.

Leaders around the continent were quick to herald the 11th-hour accord that heads off the threat of Britain crashing out of the EU after 47 years of shared history with no follow-on rules.

Irish premier Micheal Martin - whose EU member state would have been hard hit by a no-deal - said the accord was the "least bad version of Brexit possible".

"There is no such thing as a 'good Brexit' for Ireland. But we have worked hard to minimise the negative consequences," he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was "confident" that the deal was a "good outcome" as it now goes over to EU member states to agree.

For French President Emmanuel Macron - often portrayed as a bogeyman by the British press - "Europe's unity and firmness paid off".

 

EU STATES TO RATIFY

Following the announcement of the political accord, Ms von der Leyen's Commission will send the text to the remaining 27 European member states.

Their ambassadors will meet on Friday, Christmas Day, and are expected to take two or three days to analyse the agreement and decide whether to approve its provisional implementation.

The UK parliament will also have to interrupt its end of year holidays to vote on the deal on December 30, and with the opposition backing its implementation is should pass easily.

Assuming the process goes as planned, the negotiating teams will have agreed the mammoth deal in record time.

But with Britain outside the EU single market and customs area, cross-Channel traders will still face a battery of new regulations and delays.

 

Economists expect both economies, already weakened by the coronavirus epidemic, to take a hit as supply chains are disrupted and costs mount.

Despite this, the threat of a return to tariffs will have been removed, and relations between the former partners will rest on a surer footing.

All sides will look to put a positive spin on the deal to make it look like they did not give too much away.

But it will be seen as win by Mr Johnson, as well as a success for Ms von der Leyen and her chief negotiator Michel Barnier, who led almost 10 months of intense talks with Britain's David Frost.

After the shock 2016 referendum, in which British voters narrowly chose to leave the union, Brexiteers boasted that they could win the "easiest trade deal in history".

But European capitals were concerned that if such a large rival on their doorstep were to deregulate its industry their firms would face unfair competition.

Brussels insisted the only way to keep the land border between Ireland and the UK open was to keep Northern Ireland, a British province, within its customs union.

And members baulked at giving up access to Britain's rich fishing waters, which support fleets in France, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland and the Netherlands.

It was the question of fish that emerged as the last stumbling block as late as this week, when member states - led by France - rebuffed UK demands.

London pushed to reduce EU fishing fleets' share of the estimated 650-million-euro ($A1 billion) annual haul by more than a third, with changes phased in over three years. The EU was insisting on 25 per cent over at least six years.

In the end, the final agreement settled on the EU's figure but cut the length of the transition period during which it would be phased in to five-and-a-half years, an EU official said.

After this time access to Britain's fishing grounds will be negotiated on an annual basis.

- with The Sun

Originally published as 'The deal is done': EU, UK reach historic Brexit trade agreement



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