The United Kingdom will exit European Union trading rules next Thursday – a year after officially leaving the 27 nation bloc.
It will mean big changes for business, with the UK and EU forming two separate markets, and the end of free movement.
According to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the EU and UK have reached a post-Brexit trade deal, ending months of disagreements over fishing rights and future business rules.
While addressing press at Downing Street, the prime minister said: “We have taken back control of our laws and our destiny.”
The text of the agreement has yet to be released, but the PM claimed it was a “good deal for the whole of Europe”.
But the trade deal will come as a major relief to many British businesses, already reeling from the impact of coronavirus, who feared disruption at the borders and the imposition of tariffs, or taxes on imports.
As the deal was announced, Mr Johnson – who had repeatedly said the UK would “prosper mightily” without a deal – tweeted a picture of himself smiling with both thumbs lifted in the air, the BBC reported on Thursday.
In a press conference in Brussels, European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen said: “This was a long and winding road but we have got a good deal to show for it.”
She said the deal was “fair” and “balanced” and it was now “time to turn the page and look to the future”. The UK “remains a trusted partner,” she added.
At his press conference, Boris Johnson said the £668bn a year agreement would “protect jobs across this country” and “enable UK goods to be sold without tariffs, without quotas in the EU market”.
He acknowledged he had been forced to give ground on his demands on fishing.
“The EU began with I think wanting a transition period of 14 years, we wanted three years, we’ve ended up at five years,” he said.
And he said the UK had not got all it wanted on financial services, a vital part of the UK economy, but he insisted the deal was “nonetheless going to enable our dynamic City of London to get on and prosper as never before”.
As a result, the UK will no longer participate in the Erasmus student exchange scheme , which Mr Johnson said was because it is “extremely expensive” – but a British option called the Turing Scheme will provide an alternative, he added.
The UK’s chief trade negotiator Lord Frost said the full text of the free trade agreement would be published soon.
The UK Parliament will be recalled on 30 December to vote on the deal – it will also need to be ratified by the European Parliament.
Labour to back deal
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer – who campaigned against Brexit – said his party would vote for the deal in the Commons, ensuring it will pass.
He said it was “a thin agreement” that “does not provide adequate protections” for jobs, manufacturing, financial services or workplace rights and “is not the deal the government promised”.
But with no time left to renegotiate, the only choice was between “this deal or no deal,” he added.
No deal would have “terrible consequences for this country and the Labour Party cannot allow that to happen”, said the Labour leader, and that was why he had decided to back it.