In a week’s time the United Kingdom finally leaves the European Union, and with days left on that long-ticking clock, both sides found enough common ground to be able to reach a Brexit deal on their future trading relationship. For many, the deal couldn’t come soon enough, with the closures and lorry chaos at the UK’s English Channel ports because of the mutant strain of coronavirus proving to be a worrying portend of what was to come should the UK and EU have failed in their year-long negotiations.
Make no mistake, this Brexit deal was indeed a close-run thing, with days left before the 11-month transition period ends on New Year’s Eve. But traders, manufacturers, consumers — and politicians on both sides of the English Channel and both sides of this deeply divisive political chasm found enough common ground to finally resolve the three key sticky issues of fisheries, governance of the deal and maintaining a level playing field in the future to shake hands on a deal.
The document itself runs to more than 2,000 pages of complex legal text — but parliamentarians from both sides will have to parse its political and economic consequences very quickly indeed — it must now be approved by all 27 EU member states and both houses of the UK Parliament at Westminster. An interim provisional period will come into practical effect on January 1, allowing for the free movement of trade and goods between Britain and its former European partners without tariffs — but with much more paperwork for British exporters.
In sheer numbers, the deal is the largest bilateral trade deal signed by either London or Brussels and covers trade that was worth €747 billion (Dh3.34 trillion) in 2019 alone. By reaching a deal, both sides have avoided the implementation of damaging tariffs under World Trade Organisation terms that would have dealt a crippling blow to businesses, manufactures, farmers, fishermen, consumers, the aviation and financial sectors in western Europe at a time when the economic havoc wrought by coronavirus has inflicted the worst fiscal damage on Britain in more than three centuries.
There is enough in this deal for both sides to claim victory, and for to be able to work together in the next phase of the relationship between the bloc that together makes up the world’s third-largest market, and the UK as it seeks to tread a new path on its own.