UK and EU publish trade pact


Both the UK and the European Union published the text of their Brexit trade agreement on Saturday morning. The agreement is around 1,250 pages long, plus agreements on nuclear power, civil nuclear energy, some confidential information and a number of joint declarations. The Brexit transition phase will end in five days and Great Britain will leave the structures of the EU for good.

Great Britain actually left the EU at the end of January and is only a member of the EU internal market and the customs union for a transitional period until December 31. At Christmas, after months of negotiations, an agreement was finally reached on a trade pact that should regulate relations between the two sides from January 2021 onwards.

Trade without tariffs and quotas

The agreement provides for trade without tariffs or quotas. The treaty expressly recognizes that trade and investment require a level playing field. With regard to financial services, both sides merely commit themselves to “creating a favorable climate for the development of trade and investment”. The text also contains many detailed appendices, including on the subjects of fish, the wine trade, medicines, chemicals and collaboration on safety data.

“Special relationship” between Great Britain and EU possible

According to British Minister of State Michael Gove, the Brexit trade pact negotiated at the last minute enables Britain to have a “special relationship” with the EU. This is how the country traditionally describes its close relationship with the USA. The trade agreement now makes it possible to leave the difficult and “sometimes ugly” Brexit process behind and to embark on a new, more hopeful era, wrote Gove in a guest article in the “Times” (Saturday).

Nevertheless, a number of things would change from January onwards and companies would have to adjust to them. On Christmas Eve, London and Brussels announced a breakthrough in talks on a joint trade pact for the time after the Brexit transition phase. At the turn of the year, the United Kingdom finally leaves the structures of the European Union after almost 40 years of membership. The worst consequences of the divorce are thus averted. The 1,256-page agreement is now available online. It will initially come into force provisionally, as the time for ratification on the European side is too short. The UK Parliament is due to vote on the deal on December 30th.

How to proceed at the negotiation level

After ten months, the EU and the UK achieved a breakthrough on Thursday in difficult negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal. However, the deal is not yet dry. In Great Britain, Parliament has to give its approval, which will be called back from the winter holidays on December 30th. On the EU side, at least the governments of all 27 member states must approve the outcome of the negotiations:

Examination in the Member States

The Christmas break is canceled for many trade and legal experts in the capitals of the EU member states. You now have to check the text of the contract, which is over a thousand pages long, in no time at all. Each government then has to decide whether to agree to the outcome of the negotiations. In many cases, a cabinet decision is sufficient. In some cases, however, at least parliamentary information may also be necessary. In countries with a minority government, talks with the opposition are likely to take place.

EU Ambassador meeting

According to preliminary planning, a meeting of the EU ambassadors in Brussels is planned for Monday. You could then initiate a written procedure through which the EU countries jointly formally declare their consent to the trade agreement. A result should be available by Tuesday morning according to an EU-internal schedule.


The agreement will then be signed by the EU on December 30th and published the day after in the EU’s Official Journal.

Provisional application

The member states have already declared their intention to apply the agreement provisionally from January 1st after the Brexit transition phase. Because there is no longer enough time until the end of the year for regular ratification by the European Parliament. It should take place in retrospect at the beginning of 2021. Only the Member States would have to agree to provisional application, not Parliament.

(what / reuters / dpa)

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