What does the Brexit trade deal mean for the EU and the UK?

Published on December 25, 2020 by
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Much of the British press hailed it as a “Brexmas” — the deal itself more important than the details. After months of missed deadlines and tense talks, Prime Minister Boris Johnson tried to reset the EU-UK relationship. Reactions to the new deal varied – from relief to despair. Fishing rights had been one of the slipperiest subjects. The final deal left the UK fishing industry disappointed. European boats will still drop nets in British waters, giving up only 25% of their catch quotas. British exporters face new bureaucratic burdens, with business groups saying they have little time to prepare. Travelers will no longer roam freely, facing the hassle of applying for visas and residency rights after 90 days across the Channel. And UK students will be cut off from the EU’s university exchange program, Erasmus. The 27 EU governments and the UK parliament must now sign off on the deal by December 31st.

The deal is done. A crisis: averted. It’s a relief for both sides. After all, half of the UK’s trade is with its European neighbors. And the UK is the EU’s third largest trading partner. The talks were painful, but the alternative was worse, pushing the begrudging neighbors closer together. Never has the European Union offered so much to a so-called “third country.” The UK has enhanced its decision-making at home but still has access to the EU market. Whereas the EU has kept a key customer for billions of euros of goods. A lot will change come the first of January. The biggest: the UK will be out of the EU’s single market but both sides will continue to have tariff-free access to each other’s economies. Citizens from either side will no longer have the automatic right to live and work in each other’s territories. There’s likely to be delays at borders, as everyone gets used to complicated new customs systems. The UK also will stop most of its payments into the EU’s budget. Selling British wares freely in the EU’s marketplace is the first big step, but Britain still has a monumental task ahead of it. Inside the EU, the UK had access to scores of deals. Now, Britain is on a shopping spree, bartering with partners to snap up trade pacts worldwide.

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