Brexit deal explained: What it means for the UK and the EU?

Key Points

  • Zero tariffs and quotas on goods
  • UK citizens would need a Visa to work, live, study, or start a business in EU countries
  • Border checks will apply between the UK and EU member states
  • The UK will be able to further develop British fishing activities for a minimum of 5.5 years, during which European fishing communities will be safeguarded
  • A combined, shared commitment to protecting the environment, to fight against climate change and carbon pricing
  • A shared commitment to protecting social and labor rights
  • Keeping standards on tax transparency
  • Passengers’ and workers’ rights in the transport sector
  • The UK’s continued participation in a number of EU programs until 2027 such as Horizon Europe, subject to a UK financial contribution

What is the Brexit Deal?

After Britain formally exited the EU on January 31 this year, it entered a 11-month transition period during which it continued to follow EU rules. It took more than three years of wrangling before Britain finally left the bloc’s political structures last January. In this period, the UK wanted to determine the key aspects of their relationship including: a viable trade agreement, defence, security and immigration.

However, talks stretched on as both sides were unable to agree on major points — fishing rights, governance, and guaranteeing a ‘level playing field’ on government subsidies and regulations.

This essentially means that in order to trade with the EU’s single market, the UK will have to follow the same rules and regulations as the EU nations are currently following to ensure no unfair advantage over other EU businesses. But irrespective of a Brexit deal, the UK will exit the EU and customs union by next week.

Where does the deal stand now?

Both the parties reached a post-Brexit trade agreement after months of negotiations. Had there been a “no-deal” scenario, it would have caused economic chaos and risked major disruption to the flow of goods and medicines.

After the deal was announced on Thursday, EU nations showed support for the outcome and it was expected that they would unanimously back the agreement, a prerequisite for its legal approval.

“Deal is done,” read the statement from Downing Street on Thursday afternoon — swiftly followed by confirmation from Brussels.

Both sides now claim the 2,000-page agreement protects their cherished goals. Britain said it gives the UK control over its money, borders, laws and fishing grounds. The EU says it protects the EU’s single market and contains safeguards to ensure that Britain does not unfairly undercut the bloc’s standards.

What do the other EU nations think?

EU ambassadors, Brexit, European Union

27 EU nations showed their support to the agreement. The strong show of unity is testament to EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, who has worked relentlessly to keep all EU nations and the groups within the EU parliament in the loop of developments throughout the torturous negotiations.

The UK parliament is expected to approve the deal in the coming days, but the agreement will have to be applied provisionally, since the EU’s legislature can only give its consent next month at the earliest. There, too, approval is expected.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Comments

“We’ve taken back control of our laws and our destiny…from January 1, we are outside the customs union and outside the single market; British laws will be made solely by the British parliament, interpreted by the UK judges sitting in UK courts; and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will come to an end.”

PM Boris Johnson

After the announcement on Thursday, Johnson reinforced his support to leave the bloc, saying that while the EU was, and is, an extraordinary concept” the “UK’s own relationship with it was always difficult.”

“The very dense program of integration wasn’t right for the UK, and that’s why it was right to take back control in the way that we have. I think this deal expresses what the people of the country voted for in 2016 and I think there was a wisdom in what they decided.”

PM Boris Johnson

What’s next?

Now that a deal has been agreed, EU leaders, the European parliament, and the UK government will all need to now approve the agreement on their own. The hefty legal text of the agreement will first be translated, reviewed and approved by all 27 EU member states, whose leaders largely welcomed the news.

Once all member states give their sign off, it will then go back to the European Parliament, where Members of European Parliament (MEPs) will vote to ratify the deal.

But the European Parliament has said that it is too late to hold an emergency voting session before the transition period ends on December 31. Instead, they plan to apply the EU-UK agreement “provisionally,” with MEPs reconvening formally to ratify the deal in the New Year. 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen acknowledged that it was a difficult day for some in the UK, but made it clear that Europe is ready to forge its own path.

What we call the beginning, is often the end, and to make an end, is to make a beginning. So to all Europeans, I say it is time to leave Brexit behind — our future is made in Europe.”

Ursula von der Leyen

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