What we know so far about EU-UK trade after Brexit

The European Union and the United Kingdom agreed on Thursday on a post-Brexit trade agreement after nearly ten months of cumbersome negotiations to control ties as Britain leaves the single market.

Here is what we know so far about the 2000-page agreement – which has not yet been published – which covers areas from fishing to future competition after 31 December.

Rates

The deal means that there will be no tariffs or quotas on goods produced in the UK and the EU moving between the two sides.

British exports must still comply with EU health and safety standards and there are strict rules for products made with parts originating outside the EU or the UK.

London has hailed the lack of tariffs as a major positive feature of the deal – but it simply helps to maintain some of the benefits that Britain has already had as a member of the bloc.

Fishing

The future access of EU fishermen to Britain’s rich waters was one of the most difficult – and politically flammable – issues, and the last piece of the puzzle that ended up before the deal could be announced.

Britain had insisted on regaining full control of its waters, while EU coastal states sought to ensure that their fleets could continue to fish in British waters.

In the end, the two sides reached a hard-fought compromise, which means that EU boats will gradually relinquish 25% of their current quotas over a transitional period of five and a half years.

This will be followed by annual negotiations on the amount of fish that EU vessels can take from British waters – and if Brussels is not satisfied, it could impose economic measures on Britain.

Equal terms

Another major obstacle was the so-called “level playing field” rules that the EU insisted on to prevent British companies from having an advantage over European competitors if London lowers standards in the future or subsidizes industries.

Britain had fought hard to avoid the establishment of a system that could see Brussels able to enforce its rules on issues such as environmental or labor regulations and state aid.

But the British government acknowledged that the deal allowed both sides to impose “countermeasures if they believe they are harmed” subject to arbitration.

Customs

The UK will leave the EU Customs Union along with the single market by the end of the year, which means that companies are facing new bureaucracy for imports and exports across the Channel.

The United Kingdom said the agreement allows for the recognition of “trust trader” systems that can reduce bureaucracy on both sides, but it remains to be seen how much this can be applied.

security

The EU says the agreement “creates a new framework for law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal and civil matters”.

London said the deal will see the two continue to share DNA, fingerprints and passenger details and see them work together through EU Europol.

Brussels says “security cooperation could be suspended in the event of a breach of the United Kingdom’s commitment to continue to abide by the European Convention on Human Rights.

‘Big changes’

Despite the agreement, both sides warn that “major changes” will come from 1 January for people and companies around Europe.

Citizens of the United Kingdom and the European Union will no longer have free movement to live and work between the two.

“The free movement of people, goods, services and capital between the UK and the EU will cease,” Brussels said.

“The EU and the United Kingdom will form two separate markets; two distinct regulatory and legal spaces. This will create barriers to trade in goods and services and to cross-border mobility and exchanges that do not exist today – in both directions.”

(AFP)