After years of wrangling, the British government has finally announced a trade deal with the European Union that will govern the trade relationship between the U.K. and European mainland after Brexit.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the deal, which must still be ratified by the British parliament and the EU, on Twitter.
Britain officially left the E.U. on January 1, 2020, after Brexit was approved by a voter referendum in June of 2016. Since the Brexit vote, the British government has been attempting — without success — to hammer out a trade deal with the European Union in order to avoid potentially disastrous trade consequences, including the imposition of tariffs and restrictions on the exportation of British goods to the European continent.
Although Britain officially left the EU in January, it has continued to operate under E.U. rules throughout 2020 while Boris Johnson’s government attempted to hammer out an agreement with the EU.
Failure to successfully negotiate a deal that could be ratified by the British parliament ultimately doomed the government of former Prime Minister Theresa May, who resigned in June 2019, saying, “it it is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead [Brexit negotiations].”
Johnson’s government led an aggressive negotiation which began in March and has continued almost continuously since. One of the last remaining obstacles to a deal was disagreement about EU fishing rights in U.K. waters, a thorny issue that threatened to derail the whole agreement even as late as this week.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen praised the deal in a statement, saying, “It has been a long and winding road but we have got a good deal to show for it. It is fair, it is a balanced deal and it is the right and responsible thing to do for both sides.”
As a result of the deal, British MPs have been recalled to Parliament for an emergency session to read the deal and vote on it before the current agreement expires on December 31st. Most observers believe that the deal will pass the British parliament; however, its fate in the EU remains slightly more uncertain.