December 24th local time, the European Union and the United Kingdom announced that they had reached an agreement on the relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom after the end of the “Brexit” transition period on December 31 this year, which determined trade, people exchange, fisheries and other regulations, avoiding the risk of a “hard Brexit” for the United Kingdom.
Regarding the agreement reached, both the European Union and the United Kingdom emphasize that they have won many interests. European Commission President von der Leyen said on the 24th that the agreement is “fair” and “balanced” and will protect the interests of the EU.
British Prime Minister Johnson made a more direct statement on the same day: “For the first time since 1973, Britain will become an independent coastal country with complete control of its waters.”
What are the details of the agreement? Do future goods of Britain and Europe need to impose additional tariffs? Do citizens of both sides need visas to enter each other’s country in the future?
Which party made concessions on the disputed fishing issue between the two sides?
After the long “Brexit” process, will there be any new problems?
Both sides compromise and the fishing problem is temporarily resolved.
The agreement reached between Britain and Europe is said to be 2,000 pages.
According to the European Commission, the agreement reached this time includes four parts: free trade agreement, economic, social, environmental and fisheries cooperation, citizen security cooperation and governance framework.
At the request of the British side, the agreement does not include cooperation in the fields of foreign affairs, external security and defense.
According to media reports such as AFP, the British Guardian, the BBC and the American political news website Politico, the agreement reached between Britain and Europe mainly focuses on the following.
After the end of the “Brexit” transition period, the United Kingdom will officially leave the EU’s customs union and the single market.
In terms of trade and tariffs, British and European goods will still enjoy zero tariffs and zero quota treatment when entering the other’s market, the same as the United Kingdom was a member of the European Union.
This arrangement goes beyond the EU’s trade agreements with Canada and Japan.
On the fisheries issue, one of the main points of the two sides’ previous negotiations, the agreement stipulates that EU fishermen need to reduce the output value of British waters by 25% over the next five and a half years.
Johnson called the arrangement “reasonable” and stressed that Britain would once again “take complete control of our waters”. However, the reality is not as positive as he described. According to Politico and Bloomberg, the figure of 25% is a compromise for both sides.
The EU originally wanted to maintain the existing fishing share, but the United Kingdom initially proposed to reduce the output value of EU fishermen in British waters by 80% within three years, and then to 30%.
According to Reuters, a French government official said on the 23rd that Britain has “made huge concessions” in the negotiations over the past 48 hours.
This fishing rule is not once and for all. After five and a half years, Britain and Europe will negotiate their fishing share every year. And just after the agreement was announced, fishermen from both British and EU countries expressed dissatisfaction.
Britain and Europe have also had big differences in the field of fair competition before.
The EU hopes to prevent the British government from introducing measures such as lowering relevant standards and subsidizing enterprises in the future, so that British enterprises can gain a competitive advantage in competition with EU enterprises.
The UK wants to prevent the EU from forcing them to comply with certain EU regulations.
Under the latest agreement, Britain and Europe have agreed on minimum environmental, social and labor standards.
Both Britain and Europe can establish their own subsidy supervision mechanisms without complying with the other party’s regulations.
The Guardian pointed out that the issue of subsidies is a major concession for the EU, and the United Kingdom can judge whether state subsidies to enterprises affect trade through its own mechanism.
If either of the British and European parties violates the provisions on fair competition, the other party can initiate independent third-party arbitration and have the right to take countermeasures.
According to documents issued by the European Commission, disputes related to fisheries can also be resorted to third-party arbitration.
Free movement no longer
On the issue of border and movement, goods, services and people on both Britain and Europe will not move freely as before, and border inspections will be restarted.
British and EU citizens are no longer free to live and work in each other’s countries. Short-term visits to each other’s countries are still visa-free, but visas are required for a longer stay of 90 days.
Politico pointed out that after leaving the EU single market, the UK’s financial services industry will lose some EU market access opportunities. Services exports account for more than 40% of British exports to the EU, and services account for more than 80% of the British economy’s output value, which is crucial to the British economy.
In addition, the agreement reached between Britain and Europe this time also includes social security, security, transportation, energy, environment, data sharing, justice and other fields.
The two sides will still cooperate in many aspects, but with the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, it will also leave many cooperation frameworks, such as the lack of direct and real-time access to sensitive databases such as EU crime records and fingerprints, and will withdraw from the EU’s “Erasmus” university exchange program.
As for the Northern Ireland issue, which is very difficult in the Brexit negotiations, it has been stipulated in the previous “Brexit” agreement.
According to the BBC, the border between the Northern Ireland region of the United Kingdom and the European Union member Ireland will remain open. In terms of goods trade, Northern Ireland enjoys a special status and will remain in the EU single market.
Trade with the EU will not be hindered, but there will be certain obstacles to the flow of trade with the rest of the UK, such as the need for documentation and inspection.
There are many opponents of the arrangements in Northern Ireland in the UK.
The BBC reported that this may have a long-term impact on the British constitutional government.
Reaching an agreement does not mean that everything is fine.
After four and a half years of the Brexit referendum, the period of Brexit has been postponed many times, and the official Brexit, Britain and Europe finally reached a future relationship agreement at the last minute before the end of the “transition period”, but this is not the end.
The latest agreement still needs the approval of both sides. The British Parliament will vote on it next week. At present, the leader of the opposition Labor Party Starmer has expressed support, and the European Parliament has to wait until next year due to time constraints.
In addition, the 27 member states of the EU need to agree to this agreement during the year and provisionally start to implement it on January 1 next year. The BBC does not expect EU member states to use the veto.
Even if the two sides reach and approve the agreement, the implementation of many measures needs to wait and further be negotiated.
According to the BBC, the EU will make a unilateral decision on Britain’s financial services industry access and some data requirements; the arrangement for Northern Ireland will also be evaluated in four years.
For Britain, it still needs to face huge economic challenges.
The British Government’s Office of Budget Responsibility had previously predicted that the British economy would shrink by 4% in 15 years compared with staying in the EU in 15 years.