For European fishermen, lower fishing quotas will apply in the future. A transition period of five and a half years is intended to simplify the adjustment to the cuts; A 25 percent reduction in catches was agreed within this period. From June 2026, the European Union will then negotiate annual catch quotas with Great Britain.
The question of how much access EU fishermen should keep to British waters was one of the contentious negotiating points until recently. While Britain wanted complete control of its fishing grounds, coastal states like France, Belgium and Denmark in particular insisted on maintaining access as before. At around 650 million euros, the industry’s economic output is of rather minor importance.
The protection of the European internal market was the most important concern for Brussels during the years of negotiations. The main concern was that Great Britain should adhere to the labor, social and environmental standards applicable in the EU – and receive unhindered access to the market in return. In addition, Great Britain should be prevented from unfairly favoring its companies through excessive state aid.
The EU has now been able to assert itself on this point: In the agreement, both sides commit to common subsidy rules. Premier Johnson had previously vehemently rejected this and tried to override rules that had already been made.
European companies that still feel disadvantaged by British subsidies in the future can also sue in local courts. Brussels can impose punitive tariffs if the British fail to abide by the rules and European companies come under price pressure as a result.
London also guarantees not to lower the existing social and environmental standards. The government had so far resisted this concession. However, if one of the two economic areas raises its standards, the other side doesn’t have to follow suit. The EU had previously requested this – and had to back off according to the previous information.
Implementation of the rules
Another point of contention was how the agreements reached should be enforced. Great Britain had strictly rejected any arbitration of future disputes by the EU Court of Justice. However, the EU had demanded clarity about future legal mechanisms and, in particular, jurisdiction by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
A representative of the British government stressed on Thursday evening that there would be no prominent role for the European Court of Justice. During the negotiations, the British government had repeatedly insisted that the United Kingdom should no longer be subject to its jurisdiction – and declared this as the ultimate emancipation from European rules. The EU, however, had continued to demand an overriding role for the European Court of Justice – and now apparently had to give up this position. Instead, according to the information so far, other arbitration mechanisms should take effect.
While the explanations on the trade in goods are detailed, the rules for services only appear briefly in the agreement that has now been reached. This is particularly devastating for the UK, whose economy is more than 80 percent dependent on services – more than the rest of Europe. Great Britain depends on smooth processes in this area, primarily due to its financial location in London.
However, a number of issues remain open in this area and should be resolved in the coming months. For the British economy in particular, Brexit is far from history.
The parliaments of both sides still have to confirm the agreement reached. In Great Britain, the members of the lower house must interrupt their Christmas vacation on December 30th. The approval of the opposition Labor Party is seen as unproblematic. On the other hand, there is uproar in Johnson’s own party – for many Brexit supporters the compromise does not go far enough in terms of British “independence” from the EU.