"Zero tariff and quota" Brexit trade deal agreed at 11th hour
After four-and-a-half years and plenty of brinkmanship on both sides, the UK and the EU have agreed a trade deal almost at the last minute with the existing transitional deal that followed the UK's official EU exit earlier this year due to expire in just a week.
There are few details available as yet, but the British government said it had 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 in 2019”.
The reactions from politicians range from welcoming the fact that a deal has been done to saying it's not the deal that was promised or wanted.
In particular there are concerns that services were excluded as this is one of the biggest earners for the UK. However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the services sector does put in an appearance in the agreement with "good language about equivalents for financial services. Not as much as we would have liked, but it is going to allow our dynamic City of London to prosper as never before”.
Regardless of the deal being done, UK companies will still find they have to deal with more red tape now that the country is out of the EU, is almost out of the transitional phase and is trading with the world’s largest commercial bloc as a non-member.
But the Confederation of British Industry welcomed the news, although it said companies need to know what the grace period will be in order to be able to smooth out many of the new processes that will now be required.
And the chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, Helen Dickinson, urged the UK government and the EU to work together to make sure the new trade arrangements function smoothly as soon as possible.
As mentioned, the details are thin on the ground at the moment and that's no surprise given that the deal reportedly adds up to around 2,000 pages.
But importantly, it seems that the spirit of the agreement is to foster as much free trade between Britain and Europe as possible. Boris Johnson called it “a great new free trade deal which will bring prosperity to both sides of the channel”.
He also responded to one of the most ardent advocates of Britain leaving the EU, Nigel Farage, who had commented that "the war is over". Johnson said he doesn't recognise that language and described the EU as “an extraordinary concept and a noble enterprise”.
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