Brexit: Details of deal set to be announced on Christmas Eve
Last December Boris Johnson emerged victorious from the 2019 general election with a huge Commons majority after promising to “get Brexit done”. Less than two months later and he delivered on that promise, Britain was “done” when it left the EU in January, but it was not yet finished.
Despite being able to declare the UK had officially left the bloc, ever since January 31 the country has remained in Brussels’ clutches, shackled to its rules, and paying billions of pounds a month into the trade bloc.
In just seven days time Britain will be out of the transition period and with a trade deal brokered as the 11th hour, a new relationship between the UK and EU can begin. Brexit will be over and a new chapter begins.
The deal has come against the odds, negotiated at breakneck speed and amid a global pandemic.
Just 72 hours ago Remainers were still demanding the Prime Minister seek to delay the end of the transition period, warning the Government would be unable to clinch a deal and focus on the coronavirus crisis.
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Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was “imperative” Mr Johnson sought a delay, while London Mayor Sadiq Khan said Covid required “the full and undivided efforts of ministers”.
But in the nick of time, Mr Johnson has defied the doubters to secure a deal.
The Prime Minister has stepped up his personal involvement in talks in the past weeks and days, remaining in regular contact with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
The pair spoke at least four times on the phone yesterday and will talk again this afternoon to seal the deal.
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has praised the Prime Minister for “finishing the job” after years of bitter fighting over Brexit.
Declaring “the war is over” he added: “We are out and arguably with a new treaty that is a bit closer to a partnership agreement.
“It is not perfect but goodness me it is still progress.”
Exact details of the deal are yet to emerge, and the conditions the UK has signed up to on fishing, state aid and the so-called level playing field will all need to be carefully examined in the days to come.
Publicly, Mr Johnson has been clear he would not shift on his red lines.
He said he would “prosper mightily” outside the EU without a trade deal and would rather operate with Brussels on World Trade Organisation terms than capitulate in negotiations.
But both sides are understood to have caved on their demands in the past 48 hours in order to secure a deal.
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Today a No10 source declared victory on fishing but French officials are briefing the media Mr Johnson has made “huge concessions” on the issue.
Last week Brussels was also demanding the UK be bound by strict state aid rules which would not apply to the EU.
Under the rules, Britain would have been banned from bailing out certain businesses at risk of collapse just like EU member states such as France and Germany.
However, the rules would have allowed the EU to provide financial support at an institutional level.
The bloc is understood to have dropped its state aid demands, but the exact agreement on financial support for British businesses is another area Brexiteers will be eager to carefully look at.
One of the other final sticking points in an agreement was the provision for retaliatory measures with the EU insisting on the ability to unilaterally place tariffs on UK goods if it felt British firms had gained an unfair advantage over their European counterparts.
It is thought the trade deal will now include an independent arbitration panel who will determine whether retaliatory tariffs are fair and proportionate.
The European Research Group of eurosceptic Tory MPs has promised to carefully examine the deal before giving its verdict on the agreement.
The group said it would convene its “star chamber” of legal experts to examine the text.
A statement issued by the group last night said: “Given that the new agreement is also highly complex, the star chamber will scrutinise it in detail, to ensure that its provisions genuinely protect the sovereignty of the United Kingdom after we exit the transition period at the end of this year.”
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