The United Kingdom struck a historic Brexit trade deal with the European Union, just a week before it exists one of the world’s biggest trading blocs. The announcement came after a final call between UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President. This was the fifth such call over the last 24 hours.
The trade agreement contains provisions on subjects ranging from civil nuclear cooperation and energy interconnections to fishing and aviation. A spokesperson said that 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 deal is fantastic news for families and businesses in every part of the UK,” he said. “We have signed the first free trade agreement based on zero tariffs and zero quotas that has ever been achieved.”
The UK formally left the EU on January 31, but has since been in a transition period under which rules on trade, travel and business remained unchanged until the end of this year. Johnson, the face of the pro-Brexit campaign, had said that since 52 per cent had voted to leave the EU, he did not want to accept the rules of its single market or its customs union after January 1. However, many aspects of Britain’s future relationship with the EU remain to be hammered out, possibly over years. The end of the transition period will bring widespread changes for British businesses and citizens, as a new chapter in the country’s relationship with its neighbors begin.
“We have taken back control of our destiny,” the UK prime minister told reporters. “People said it was impossible, but we have taken back control.” Johnson described the last-minute agreement as a “jumbo” free trade deal along the lines of that done between the European Union and Canada, and urged Britain to move on from the divisions caused by the 2016 Brexit referendum.
The European Commission president told the reporters that it was a long and winding road. “But we have got a good deal to show for it. Finally we leave Brexit behind us, and look to the future. Europe is now moving on.”
Analysts highlight that without the collective might of the EU, the United Kingdom will stand largely alone, and much more reliant on the United States, when negotiating with China, Russia and India. It will have more autonomy, but be poorer, at least in the short term.