The agreement will allow for tariff and quota-free trade in goods and services across a range of areas. Crucial for film and TV production is the ease of movement of people and equipment, details of which are expected.
The broad structure of the deal was agreed on Wednesday and negotiations carried on all night through to Thursday, Christmas Eve. The discussions were led by U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
“It was a long and winding road, but we have got a good deal to show for it,” said von der Leyen, who characterized the deal as “fair” and “balanced.”
She later added, “We should ask as ourselves what sovereignty means in the 21st century. It is about pooling our strength and speaking together in a world full of great powers. It is about pulling each other up in times of crisis instead of trying to get back to your feet alone. And the EU shows how this can work in practice.”
“Parting is such sweet sorrow,” concluded von der Leyen in her speech. “But to quote TS Eliot: ‘What we call the beginning is often the end and to make an end is to make a beginning.'”
“We have completed the biggest trade deal yet worth £668 billion [$904 billion] a year, a comprehensive Canada style free trade deal between the U.K. and the EU, a deal that will protect jobs across this country, allow U.K. goods and components to be sold without tariffs and without quotas, in the EU market, a deal, which will, if anything, allow our companies and our exporters to do even more business with all European friends,” Johnson said, addressing a press conference on Thursday.
“We’ve taken back control of our laws and our destiny,” Johnson added.
Addressing “EU friends and partners,” Johnson said, “We will be your friend, your ally, your supporter, and indeed never let it be forgotten, your number one market, because although we have left the EU, this country will remain culturally, emotionally, historically, strategically, geologically attached to Europe.”
The deal is done. pic.twitter.com/zzhvxOSeWz
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) December 24, 2020
While Johnson was jubilant, Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, a U.K. nation that voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU in 2016, fired a salvo, suggesting a break up of the union.
“Before the spin starts, it’s worth remembering that Brexit is happening against Scotland’s will,” Sturgeon tweeted. “And there is no deal that will ever make up for what Brexit takes away from us. It’s time to chart our own future as an independent, European nation.”
Before the spin starts, it’s worth remembering that Brexit is happening against Scotland’s will. And there is no deal that will ever make up for what Brexit takes away from us. It’s time to chart our own future as an independent, European nation.
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) December 24, 2020
The negotiations saw brinksmanship on both sides with matters seeming to have reached an impasse on more than one occasion, meaning that the U.K would have left with no deal, a scenario that would have been severely damaging to economies on both sides.
The final sticking point was the question of fisheries, with the U.K. treating it as a sovereignty issue and making it a major factor in discussions. It was a major plank of the Leave campaign in 2016. The EU catches approximately $790 million worth of fish in the hitherto shared waters annually and the U.K. $1.1 billion. Though this is a mere fraction of the $624 billion worth of goods traded annually between the EU and the U.K., the sovereignty issue made it a flashpoint.
Johnson’s stance was that the EU’s share of fishing in U.K. waters drop by 80% in three years and he finally agreed to a fall of 25% over five and a half years.
The deal will be fully done when it is approved by the U.K. parliament before the end of the year and a provisional approval by governments of the 27 EU states prior to a ratification by their respective parliaments in the new year.