EU-UK confirm trade and cooperation agreement

The EU and UK have confirmed a comprehensive trade agreement that will allow both sides to avoid a major disturbance following the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December.

“It’s fair and a balanced deal,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said. “It’s the right and responsible thing to do for both sides.”

UK prime minister Boris Johnson echoed the sentiment. “We can do fantastic things with this treaty,” he said. The deal also had “good” language about equivalence of financial services, Johnson said, “but not as much as we like”.

Von der Leyen said there was the possibility of EU action if the UK does not adhere to the agreement, notably with respect to fair competition.

“If they do not want to follow the rules, then there will be quotas and tariffs,” Von der Leyen said. But she said that the EU and UK will still co-operate in major fields and specifically mentioned energy and climate change.

The agreement also provides a new model for trading and interconnectivity, as well as guarantees for competition, offshore safety standards, renewables and a legally enforceable commitment on carbon pricing.

The commission will propose application of the agreement on a provisional basis until 28 February 2021. But the EU’s council of ministers will need to unanimously adopt a decision to authorise provisional application as of 1 January 2021.

The UK’s parliament will have to be recalled to vote on the agreement before the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December.

Members of the European Parliament have expressed concern about practical difficulties in approving provisional application of the deal before formal approval.

Belgian Philippe Lamberts, member of the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordination group, said the devil is in the detail. “We insist that the European Parliament is given the proper time to scrutinise and potentially ratify such a wide-ranging deal,” Lamberts said.

By Dafydd ab Iago