Instead of eating turkey or opening presents, European Union ambassadors will spend part of Christmas Day reviewing the details of the bloc’s post-Brexit trade deal with the United Kingdom.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier will brief the Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER), formed of ambassadors from EU nations, on the agreement, which was finalized on Thursday more than four years after the UK voted to leave the EU.
The deal was reached after months of fraught negotiations and just days before the December 31 deadline which marks the end of the Brexit transition period.
EU leaders, the European Parliament and the UK Parliament all need to now approve the agreement on their own.
British lawmakers will debate the legislation on December 30. The opposition Labour Party has said it will back the government’s deal.
All EU member states have sign off on the agreement, after which it will then go back to the European Parliament, where members will vote to ratify the deal.
The European Parliament has said that it is too late to hold an emergency voting session before December 31.
Instead, they plan to apply the EU-UK agreement “provisionally,” with Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) reconvening formally to ratify the agreemend in the New Year. The Parliament will meet on December 28 to discuss the Christmas Eve deal.
Key points from the deal
- Zero tariffs and quotas on goods
- The end of free movement, meaning UK citizens will no longer have the right to work, live, study, or start a business in the EU without a visa
- Border checks will apply between the UK and EU member states
- There will be no hard border on the island of Ireland between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland
- The UK will be able to further develop British fishing activities for at least 5-and-a-half years, during which time European fishing communities will be safeguarded
- A shared commitment to protecting the environment, to fight against climate change and carbon pricing
- A shared commitment to protecting social and labor rights
- Keeping standards on tax transparency
- Passengers’ and workers’ rights in the transport sector
- The UK’s continued participation in a number of EU programs until 2027 such as Horizon Europe, subject to a UK financial contribution
A summary of the deal has been published on the UK government’s website.
Speaking shortly after the announcement Thursday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the agreement was a “good deal” for the “whole of Europe” – one that signified “a new stability and a new certainty in what has sometimes been a fractious and difficult relationship.”
Echoing the nationalistic rhetoric that featured so prominently in the Brexit referendum campaign he said: “We’ve taken back control of our laws and our destiny…from January 1, we are outside the customs union and outside the single market; British laws will be made solely by the British parliament, interpreted by the UK judges sitting in UK courts; and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will come to an end.”
Johnson claimed that the UK had achieved a “Canada-style” trade deal worth £660 billion (US $893 billion) and addressed the agreement on fisheries – a key point of contention in the negotiations – saying that the UK had taken back “full control” of its waters.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU had struck a fair and balanced post-Brexit trade deal, but signaled that the bloc had the upper hand in the negotiations.
“As we knew, in any case, if there would have been a hard Brexit, it would not have been good for both sides, but it would have hit the United Kingdom harder than the European Union with all its might of 450 million citizens. And therefore, from a position of strength we were able to come forward with the most comprehensive agreement we’ve ever had,” von der Leyen said at a news conference Thursday.
“So to all Europeans, I say it is time to leave Brexit behind – our future is made in Europe.”
Luke McGee and Kara Fox contributed to this story.