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Global Times

"We have taken back control" after securing UK-EU trade deal: UK PM

Global Times

Source: Xinhua Published: 2020/12/25 9:24:11

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Thursday that Britain and the European Union (EU) have reached a deal on their post-Brexit trade relations, saying that "we have taken back control".

"We have taken back control of every jot and tittle of our regulation in a way that is complete and unfettered," Johnson said in a virtual press conference at Downing Street.

By the new deal, reached in nine months of hard negotiations between London and Brussels, Britain has "taken back control of our laws and our destiny", he said, adding that his country has also taken back control of money, borders and fishing waters.

The deal is a comprehensive Canada style deal, the prime minister said, adding that it will protect jobs across Britain.

Britain has insisted that it wants a Canada style relationship with the EU based on a comprehensive free trade agreement, supplemented by separate international agreements.

He noted that the deal offers a "new stability and certainty" for Britain's relationship with the EU, which he said sometimes has been a "fractious".

"There will be no palisade of tariffs on Jan. 1 (2021) or tariff barriers to trade," the prime minister said.

"The jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will come to an end," he said.

As Britain will focus on battling the COVID-19 pandemic, the country has solved an issue that has "bedevilled" British politics for decades, Johnson said.

According to a statement released by Downing Street, the deal is the biggest bilateral trade deal signed by either side, covering trade worth 668 billion pounds (about 902.6 billion U.S. dollars) in 2019.

"The deal also guarantees that we are no longer in the lunar pull of the EU, we are not bound by EU rules...we will have full political and economic independence on 1st January 2021," said the statement.

Professor Iain Begg from the London School of Economics (LSE) said both London and Brussels have had to make "uncomfortable concessions" to strike a trade deal.

"Both sides have had to 'bend' in the last frantic effort to prevent the mutual self-harm that would have arisen from 'no-deal', with the chaos at Dover as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions providing a timely reminder of what might have happened," Begg, co-director of the Dahrendorf Forum at the European Institute, LSE, told Xinhua.

Thousands of trucks had been trapped near the port city of Dover in England as France shut down its border with Britain amid grave concerns over the spread of a new coronavirus strain.

"It is now beyond the question of who won or lost; as in any deal both sides will, no doubt claim victory, but in reality they have had to make uncomfortable concessions," Begg said.

Begg added that given the sheer weight of the EU in British trade, he always expected a deal.

The EU is Britain's largest trading partner. In 2019, Britain's exports to the EU were 294 billion pounds (about 397.2 billion U.S. dollars), accounting for about 43 percent of all British exports, according to figures published by the British Parliament.

Britain's imports from the EU were 374 billion pounds (about 505.3 billion dollars), about 52 percent of all British imports.

"The UK will, no doubt, continue with its efforts to strike new deals elsewhere, but the EU is, and will remain, its most important market," added Begg.

Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a press conference in Brussels that "We have finally found an agreement. It was a long and winding road, but we have got a good deal to show for it. It is fair. It is a balance deal."

"It is time to leave Brexit behind. Our future is made in Europe," she said.

Describing the deal as "fair" and "balanced", she noted that competition rules "will be fair and remain so", as EU rules and standards "will be respected".

"Effective tools" have been agreed to "react if fair competition is distorted", she said, confirming that five and a half years of "full predictability for fishing communities" has been agreed.

The British and EU leaders had previously said significant differences remained between the two sides on three critical issues: level playing field, governance and fisheries.

Britain and the EU will "continue cooperating in all areas of mutual interest" such as climate change, energy, security and transport, said von der Leyen.

"Together we still achieve more than we do apart," she said.

According to a press statement by the European Commission, the agreement covers not just trade in goods and services, but also a broad range of other areas, such as investment, competition, state aid, tax transparency, air and road transport, energy and sustainability, fisheries, data protection, and social security coordination.

Both parties have committed to ensuring a robust level playing field by maintaining high levels of protection in areas such as environmental protection, the fight against climate change and carbon pricing, social and labour rights, tax transparency and state aid, with effective, domestic enforcement, a binding dispute settlement mechanism and the possibility for both parties to take remedial measures, said the statement.

The deal also includes "a horizontal agreement on governance". A Joint Partnership Council will be established to make sure the deal is properly applied and interpreted, and in which all arising issues will be discussed.

The deal came with only a week to go before the Brexit transition period ends on Dec. 31, 2020.

The British parliament would still need to ratify the deal by the end of the year before it can be implemented on Jan. 1, 2021. The EU is likely to impose "provisional application" of the agreement until MEPs vote on it in 2021.

Britain left the EU on Jan. 31, 2020. The two sides have been locked in talks since March to determine their future relations.

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