Shafaq News/ Britain clinched a narrow Brexit trade deal with the European Union on Thursday, just seven days before it exits one of the world’s biggest trading blocs in its most significant global shift since the loss of empire.
The deal, agreed more than four years after Britain voted by a slim margin to leave the bloc, offers a way out of a chaotic finale to a divorce that has shaken the 70-year project to forge European unity from the ruins of World War Two. Reuters stated.
It will preserve Britain’s zero-tariff and zero-quota access to the bloc’s single market of 450 million consumers, but will not prevent economic pain and disruption for the United Kingdom or for EU member states.
Many aspects of Britain’s future relationship with the EU remain to be hammered out, possibly over years.
“We have taken back control of our destiny,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters after posting a picture on Twitter of himself raising both arms in a thumbs-up gesture of triumph.
“People said it was impossible, but we have taken back control.”
The UK formally left the EU on Jan. 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.
The EU did not want to give unfettered privileges to a freewheeling, deregulated British economy outside the bloc, and so potentially encourage others to leave - resulting in a tortuous negotiation.
“It was a long and winding road,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters, quoting the Paul McCartney song. “But we have got a good deal to show for it... Finally we can leave Brexit behind us and look to the future. Europe is now moving on.”
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 deal will also support the peace in Northern Ireland - a priority for U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, who had warned Johnson that he must uphold the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
The trade pact will not cover services, which make up 80% of the British economy, including a banking industry that positions London as the only financial capital to rival New York.
Access to the EU market for UK-based banks, insurers and asset managers will become patchy at best.
Even with a deal, goods trade will have more rules, more red tape and more cost. There will be some disruption at ports. Everything from food safety regulation and exporting rules to product certification will change.
A U.S. State Department official welcomed the agreement and said Washington wanted good relations with Britain and the EU.
“As we have said, we respect the UK’s sovereign decision to depart the EU, and we look forward to continued strong relationships with both the UK and EU,” the official said.
The EU loses its principal military and intelligence power, 15% of GDP, one of the world’s top two financial capitals and a champion of free markets that had acted as an important check on the ambitions of Germany and France.
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.
The UK, which imports about $107 billion more a year from the EU than it exports there, had bickered until the end over fish - a totemic issue, but worth less than 0.1% of GDP.
The deal governing post-Brexit trade needs the approval of both the European Parliament and the EU’s 27 member states. Ambassadors from EU countries will meet on Dec. 25 to start reviewing the deal. The European Parliament said on Thursday it would analyze the deal in detail before deciding whether to approve the agreement in the new year.
The British parliament, as divided as the country over Brexit, will debate and vote on the deal on Dec. 30, just one day before the transition period lapses.