British MPs approved the post-Brexit agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom on December 30. The 1,246-page text was later signed by Boris Johnson. The “no deal”, ie an exit without agreement, was avoided.
On the eve of the United Kingdom’s exit from the single European market, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the leaders of the European Union signed the post-Brexit agreement on December 30 to frame the historic break.
The 1,246-page compromise, announced on Christmas Eve to avoid the no deal, can come into effect on December 31 at 11 p.m. London time and GMT (midnight in Brussels), when the United Kingdom ends 47 years of presence in the European Union.
Not an “end”, but a “beginning”
“This is not the end” but “the beginning of a wonderful relationship between the United Kingdom and our friends and partners in the European Union”, assured Boris Johnson after having initialed the document, raising both thumbs in look in front of the cameras.
Now is the time to put Brexit behind us
The text was signed in the morning by the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and her counterpart of the European Council (institution representing the Member States) Charles Michel, all smiles, before crossing the Channel on board a plane from the Royal Air Force.
“It has been a long road. Now is the time to put Brexit behind us. Our future is being built in Europe ”, commented the head of the European executive on Twitter. Charles Michel hailed “a fair and balanced agreement” and welcomed the “unprecedented unity” demonstrated by the Twenty-Seven in the negotiations.
The application of the free trade agreement, the result of difficult negotiations, remains provisional, pending the vote of MEPs, whose approval is necessary for ratification, which will only take place in the first quarter of 2021.
521 votes in favor, 73 against
On the British side, everything must be completed on December 30. Clearing the field, the deputies approved the text overwhelmingly by 521 votes and 73 against. It is now the turn of the Lords in the upper house of Parliament to consider it by the end of the day and then to Queen Elizabeth II to promulgate the law on its entry into force.
Welcoming the opening of a “new chapter”, Boris Johnson assured the deputies that the United Kingdom would remain “the best friend and ally” of the European Union, after having been “an unconvinced member”.
The Conservative leader also hoped that the agreement “will put an end to some of the grudge and recriminations” and allow the British to “move on” after the four and a half years of uncertainties following the referendum in June 2016 which voted Brexit with 51.9% of the vote.
The adoption by British parliamentarians was hardly in doubt given the majority of Boris Johnson’s government and the rallying of both Brexiters the toughest and Labor opposition leader Keir Starmer, who judged that this “meager” agreement, which excludes services and multiplies customs procedures, is “better than no agreement at all”.
Among the opponents of the text, the small North Irish Unionist party DUP, favorable to Brexit but opposed to customs controls between the British province and the rest of the United Kingdom, as well as the Europhiles of the Liberal Democrat Party and the Scottish independence party SNP . Scotland voted 62% to stay in the EU.
Fear of dumping
The United Kingdom, which officially left the EU on January 31, will stop applying European rules on the evening of December 31. He will leave the single market, the customs union and the Erasmus student exchange program.
With this agreement reached after months of fierce negotiations, the EU offers the UK duty-free and quota-free access to its market of 450 million consumers but plans to avoid any dumping sanctions and compensatory measures in the event of non-compliance with its rules on State aid, the environment, labor law and taxation.
London and Brussels thus avoid the no deal with trade barriers that would have cost their respective economies dearly, already weakened by the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the end of the transition period marks a major upheaval: border customs controls will increase trade and free movement for the British and EU citizens in their respective territories.