The The European Commission and the British Government have reached an agreement this Thursday on their future relationship, after a last night awake with their delegates haggling over fish and ten months of intense negotiations, which have coagulated into nearly two thousand pages, which will now have to be converted into legal texts for ratification by the European parliaments and British before the end of the year.
Boris Johnson reported on the agreement to his Cabinet on Wednesday night and the Commission has been in regular contact with the ambassadors of the member states. The chief negotiators, Michel Barnier and David Frost, and their respective teams have maintained since September, with increasing exhaustion, a dynamic of continuous sessions and exchanges of proposals and drafts.
If the parliaments ratify the agreement, The UK will completely leave the European Union next week, but the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, have confirmed that allow trade between companies without their products being subjected to tariffs or quotas. Importers and exporters will have to comply, as of midnight on December 31, new requirements at customs.
The pages of the agreement, which has not been published, will be revealed in the next few hours possible requirements for travel from member states to the United Kingdom, and vice versa, or details about the status of Gibraltar or the approval in data processing. It does not contain an understanding of financial services or collaboration in the area of foreign policy and defense; university students will not participate in the Erasmus exchange program.
He Agreement has been reached in record time for this type of treaty. The transition period agreed in 2019 between the EU and Theresa May’s Government was two years, but the rejection by the British Parliament of its Withdrawal Agreement caused its downfall. The new leader, Boris Johnson, declined the EU’s invitation to extend the deadline on several occasions.
The negotiating teams they soon agreed on security collaboration, which would not offer the British side the current automatic access to community databases, or the future participation of the United Kingdom in EU programs such as Horizon, but the requirement of fair competition rules, to prevent the British economy from winning competitive advantage through subsidies or environmental or labor standards that make their products cheaper, has been the thorniest issue from day one.
In announcing the agreement, Michel Barnier stated that the EU maintains its capacity for unilateral sanctions, while Johnson presented the agreement in this area as capable of endowing the British economy with complete autonomy. When a journalist told him that his statement that trade will not be subjected to non-tariff barriers is not true, because as of January 1 he will add red tape, the prime minister replied that he meant that the EU will not be able to prohibit plugs British because they do not work in countries of the Union. In other words, you have to wait for the publication of the agreed documents.
The allocation of quotas of different species to the British and Community fishing fleets extended the negotiation at the last minute. The agreement would offer a transition period of five and a half years to the community fleets, with a possible, but not clarified, reduction of catches. The divergence on fisheries and fair competition seemed capable of forcing a no-deal separation. That has also been a constant threat from May and Johnson, although both governments have shown tenacity to return to the table until they reach it.
President Von der Leyen was inspired by William Skakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to describe the historical context. “Separating is such a sweet sorrow”, said. Johnson said the future treaty offers the promise of “a new stability and certainty in what has at times been a moody and difficult relationship.”