Has the landmark trade deal with Europe put an end to the Brexit affair?


Despite an eleventh-hour conclusion and fears that the talks were doomed, the trade deal struck between the European Union and the United Kingdom on Christmas Eve was concluded in record time during the creation of this piece of history. At over 1,200 pages plus summaries and policy statements on a host of sensitive issues, it is the most detailed trade deal ever negotiated by the European Union, the world’s largest trading bloc. It was also the most difficult and the most different of all those that Brussels has concluded with other trading partners.

Once the clocks strike midnight, the United Kingdom will officially emerge from its transition which allowed it to access the internal market of the European Union under the same conditions as before its departure. Some obvious changes will take effect immediately. For example, Britons will no longer enjoy the legal right, which they have had for more than four decades, to live, study, work or retire in the European Union. Britons made around 66 million trips to the European Union in 2019 alone without needing a travel visa. Now trips longer than 90 days will require one. At airports in the European Union, Britons will have to stand in different security lanes.

Similarly, EU citizens living in the UK or planning to move there will either need to become UK citizens or apply for the EU Settlement Scheme. The UK government also advises its citizens to take out travel and health insurance as they will not be covered by the European Union health insurance scheme. Another tangible loss for UK consumers will be free mobile roaming, but companies have pledged not to add roaming charges at this time.

From a commercial point of view, there will be no taxes or duties on products crossing the borders of the European Union and Wales, Scotland and England, which is a positive development. Importers and exporters will still need to file customs declarations, and special products like plants, animals and some food items will need additional licenses.

Northern Ireland remains an anomaly in the wider trade deal. There will be no real customs border between it and the Republic of Ireland, which is part of the European Union. With the deal late in the making, it’s unclear how prepared EU and UK businesses are for the tsunami of paperwork that will be required to trade between the two sides. The disruption could last several months.

After more than four torturous years of talks since the referendum, does that end the Brexit affair? Unfortunately, the answer is no. The scale of bureaucratic red tape is likely to hurt the economy, especially in the UK, for years to come. Many other issues have yet to be settled in treaty form, including tax regimes, subsidy control and financial services. On the latter, a political declaration with the agreement aims to obtain an official memorandum by the end of winter.

While a conclusion has been reached on the sensitive issue of state subsidies, it remains to be seen how this will work in practice. EU lawyers will ensure that the UK government does not give an unfair advantage in the form of state aid to UK companies to the detriment of companies based in the European Union, where rules stricter rules on State aid have existed. for decades.

Despite Boris Johnson’s claims, there are no Brexit winners. The process since the referendum has cost the UK economy billions of pounds. Businesses, consumers, students and tourists on both sides of the Channel have fallen victim to the madness of nationalists like Johnson who believe reclaiming a greater amount of sovereignty from Brussels is somehow compatible with a global economy.

Some closure has been achieved with the trade agreement. Both the European Union and the United Kingdom can emerge from a process that has overwhelmed the political environment in Brussels and London for more than four years. Yet the devil is in the detail. We may get some short-term respite, but the enactment of the trade deal will ensure that the Brexit deal is destined to go on for decades.

Michael Geary is a Global Fellow at the Wilson Center and Professor of European History at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.


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