• Toby Irwin

Brexit Deal Details Emerge: Has Christmas Come Early?

It's what we've all spent years waiting for, and in many cases doubting it will ever come to fruition. In the last day, details have increasingly started to emerge from the UK-EU trade deal, which is reportedly over 2000 pages long. Naturally, one should be sceptical taking details at this early time, and one is encouraged to wait until proper time has passed to allow full scrutiny. That said, what do we know so far? Much of the agreement has been sorted for a long time, but a number of sticking points have caused progress to slow to a halt at multiple stages. In summary, it seems that Boris has achieved the impossible: Brexit as it was sold. will not be a part of the single market or customs union, it will also not be in the ECJ. Freedom of movement will cease, and yet the continued flow of goods will continue sans tariffs. For many, the separation of flow of goods/services from the flow of people seemed impossible in negotiation, so if this turns out to be true then the UK negotiating team is to be commended.


Regarding the main 'newsworthy' points, it appears that the UK has moved on fishing in exchange for EU concessions of 'level playing field' regulations. EU fishing is to retain rights to UK waters for five years to allow readjustment to new catch areas. A 'sunset' clause on fishing allows future negotiations to continue when this particular transition period ends. While some may see this as a sell-out, in truth five years is not a long period especially when one looks at what the UK got in exchange. The EU has agreed that no EU institution will act as the adjudicator for regulatory disputes between the UK and EU. This is huge, and further is a victory for UK free trade. If the EU does decide that the UK is 'undercutting' them in a certain sector (for example, automobiles), then they will impose isolated tariffs on that area while not disturbing the wider UK access to the EU market.


In many ways this is a great deal for the UK. It delivers on what the people voted for in 2016, while maintaining a sensible and practical access to our neighbours' markets. Already we are seeing the benefits of being outside the single market and customs union, with multiple free trade deals being signed from Canada to Mexico to Singapore. This dual-success of maintaining a trade deal with the EU while simultaneously striking new ones abroad is a marvellous achievement of statecraft and stands as testament to the UK's bright future as a bastion of free trade.


It seems almost certain that the deal will pass in parliament. No doubt the SNP will kick up a fuss about it being detrimental to their relationship with Europe (seemingly forgetting their own claims that a no deal Brexit would be a disaster, and that a deal must be struck), but in all it is likely that most MPs and the public will accept this as a success for the UK.


Sources:

Relations post-Brexit : l’Union européenne et le Royaume-Uni proches d’un accord (lemonde.fr)

The new Brexit deal: outlines emerge | The Spectator

Brexit deal: what has been agreed, and what happens next? (telegraph.co.uk)

At the time of writing, Toby Irwin is a final year student at the University of St Andrews. He is studying International Relations (MA, Hons).

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