Better Than Nothing
Britain and the European Union reached a last-minute pact which will allow 27-nation bloc continue to trade in goods without tariffs or quotas.
On the day before Christmas Britain, and UE announced it reached a long-anticipated agreement after eleven months of stormy negotiations. We now have a fair & balanced agreement, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter.
The deal requires ratification by the European and British parliaments but is expected to rapidly ease growing chaos that has characterised cross-border commerce in recent days.
It will protect our EU interests, ensure fair competition & provide predictability for our fishing communities, Mrs. Von der Layen tweeted. Europe is now moving on, she stated. The devil will be in the details of the 2,000-page agreement, but both sides said the deal protects their cherished goals. Britain said it gives the U.K. control over its money, borders, laws and fishing waters and ensures the country is “no longer in the lunar pull of the EU.”
Under the deal, the EU is giving up a quarter of the quota it catches in U.K. waters, far less than the 80 per cent Britain initially demanded. The system will be in place for five and half years, after which the quotas will be reassessed.
Although both sides made compromises, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared victory and framed the deal as icing on a cake of independence that the U.K. baked when it voted in 2016 to free itself of economic and bureaucratic strain that most Britons had come to associate with EU membership.
We have taken back control of our laws and our destiny, Mr. Johnson declared, circulating photos of himself beaming and flashing thumbs-up signs on social media. I think this deal means a new stability and a new certainty in what has sometimes been a fractious and difficult relationship, Mr. Johnson said, reminding observers in the EU that “we will be your friend, your ally, your supporter and — indeed, never let it be forgotten — your No. 1 market.
I think this deal means a new stability and a new certainty in what has sometimes been a fractious and difficult relationship, Mr. Johnson said, reminding observers in the EU that “we will be your friend, your ally, your supporter and — indeed, never let it be forgotten — your No. 1 market.
British press: “better than nothing"
But the British financial media have different perception of Mr. Johnson’s deal. For The Economist, the deal is "the toughest Brexit" alongside a no-deal scenario. It mainly regulates freight transport, but hardly any services, which make up 80 percent of the British economy and represent the fastest growing sector for global exports. There are still no rules for financial services, data transfer, recognition of many service qualifications.
Financial Times editors expressed similar opinion. The deal is "far from what a global trade agreement should be". Rather, it is "the absolute minimum" that could be agreed on in view of the "ideological intransigence of the government". Traders may be spared customs duties and quotas, but they would be confronted with extra bureaucracy when it comes to exports to the EU.
Hard border: no EU citizen will be able to live and work in UK without visa
Since Jan. 1, the breakup will start feeling real. Even with a trade deal, goods and people will no longer be able to move freely between the U.K. and its continental neighbors without border restrictions.
EU citizens will no longer be able to live and work in Britain without visas— though that does not apply to the 4 million already doing so — and Britons can no longer automatically work or retire in EU nations. Exporters and importers face customs declarations, goods checks and other obstacles.
The agreement needs to be ratified by both sides. The British Parliament is set to vote on Dec. 30.
Financial Times U.K. chief political commentator and U.K. editor at large Robert Shrimsley wrote Thursday that whatever the U.K. may become in the future, no one can say the years since the 2016 referendum have projected a confident, independent nation.
The turmoil has done much to quell similar movements in other EU nations, he observed. From the EU’s point of view, Brexit could not have gone much better.