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After months of talks and almost at the last minute, Britain and the European Union reached an interim free trade deal on Thursday that should avoid New Year’s chaos for cross-border traders and provide a measure of certainty for businesses after years of Brexit turmoil.
With little more than a week until the United Kingdom final separation from the EU, the British government said “the deal is done.”

He said the deal was “the first free trade agreement based on zero tariffs and quotas ever reached with the EU.”

EU officials also confirmed that an agreement had been reached.

“So we have finally come to an agreement. It was a long and winding road, but we have a lot to show for,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “It is fair, it is a balanced agreement and it is the correct and responsible thing for both parties.”

The agreement guarantees that the two parties can continue to trade goods without tariffs or quotas. But despite the breakthrough, key aspects of the future relationship between the 27-nation bloc and its former member remain uncertain.

The British and European parliaments must vote on the deal, although the latter may not happen until the UK leaves the economic embrace of the EU on January 1.

In this Jan.30, 2020 file photo, a man unfurls a Union and EU flag in front of the European Parliament in Brussels. Britain and the European Union have reached an interim free trade agreement that should avoid New Year’s chaos for cross-border traders and provide some certainty for businesses after years of Brexit turmoil. (AP)
Months of tense and often irritable negotiations it gradually narrowed the differences between the two parties to three key issues: rules of fair competition, mechanisms for resolving future disputes, and fishing rights. The rights of EU vessels to trawling in British waters remained the last hurdle before it was resolved.

However, key aspects of the future relationship between the 27-nation bloc and its former member remain unresolved.

Johnson had insisted that the UK would “prosper tremendously” even if no deal was reached and the UK had to trade with the EU on the terms of the World Trade Organization. But his government has acknowledged that a chaotic exit is likely to lead to stagnation in British ports, temporary shortages of some goods and price increases for staple foods.

The EU has long feared that Britain would undermine the bloc’s social, environmental and state aid rules after Brexit, becoming a low-regulation rival at the bloc’s door. Britain denies having plans to institute weaker standards, but said having to follow EU regulations would undermine its sovereignty.

Finally a compromise was reached on the sensitive issues of “level playing field”. The economically minor but hugely symbolic fish issue became the final stumbling block, with EU maritime nations seeking to retain access to UK waters where they have long fished and Britain insisting it must exert control. as an “independent coastal state”.

The huge gaps on fisheries were gradually closed during weeks of intense negotiations in Brussels, even as Johnson continued to insist that a no-deal exit was a likely and satisfactory outcome of nine months of talks on the future relationship between the EU and its former. member nation.

It has been four and a half years since the British voted 52% -48% to leave the EU and, in the words of the Brexiteers’ campaign slogan, “regain control” of UK borders and laws.

Boris johnson
“The deal is done,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote on Thursday. (Twitter)

More than three years of bickering passed before Britain left the bloc’s political structures on January 31. Unraveling the economies that were closely intertwined as part of the EU’s single market for goods and services took even longer.

The UK has remained part of the single market and customs union during an 11-month transition period after Brexit. As a result, many people so far will have noticed little impact from Brexit.

On January 1, the breakup will start to feel real. The new year will bring big changes, even with a trade deal. Goods and people will no longer be able to move freely between the UK and its continental neighbors without border restrictions.

EU citizens will no longer be able to live and work in Britain without visas, although that doesn’t apply to the more than 3 million who already do, and British people can no longer automatically work or retire in EU nations. Exporters and importers face customs declarations, merchandise controls, and other obstacles.

British supermarkets say the backlog will take days to clear and there could be a shortage of some fresh produce during the Christmas season.

Despite the agreement, there are still unanswered questions on large areas, including security cooperation between the UK and the bloc and access to the EU market for Britain’s huge financial services sector.

– Reported with Associated Press

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