UK and EU agree Brexit trade deal

A historic deal on the UK’s future trading and security relationship with the European Union has been struck today (24 December) on Christmas Eve, a week before the end of the Brexit transition period.

As the country leaves the single market and customs union on 31 December, new arrangements allowing for tariff-free trade in goods and close police and judicial cooperation will come into force.

The announcement followed a final call between Boris Johnson in Downing Street and the European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, in her Berlaymont headquarters in Brussels – at least the fifth such call over the last 24 hours.

A deal of this significance raises a number of questions about how the relationship will operate in the future. Here are the main issues that have been negotiated:


One of the most difficult issues in the negotiations: How many fish will EU boats be able to catch in UK waters in future, and how long will any transition period last before new measures come into full force? 

Level playing field

What will the rules on fair competition look like, to ensure that businesses on one side don’t gain an unfair advantage over their competitors on the other?

Dispute resolution

How will the deal actually be enforced if either side breaks any of the terms and conditions? If the UK chooses to move away more radically from EU rules in the future, how quickly can the EU respond?


What will the rules be for British people who want to travel to the EU from 1 January 2021?

Financial services

Is there going to be a separate statement from the EU which will recognise UK rules governing financial services as roughly “equivalent” to EU rules?


This is a really important issue. What will the data protection rules be for UK companies that deal with data from the EU? 

Professional qualifications

Will UK professional qualifications be recognised across the EU in the future, and what restrictions will there be?

There are many other questions to answer – this agreement will form the basis for UK-EU relations for years if not decades to come. And the two sides will have to continue to talk about how to implement it most effectively.

The trade agreement – running to 2,000 pages – is unprecedented in scope, containing provisions on subjects ranging from civil nuclear cooperation and energy interconnections to fishing and aviation.

Government spokesperson said: “The deal is done. Everything that the British public was promised during the 2016 referendum and in the general election last year is delivered by this deal.

“We have taken back control of our money, borders, laws, trade and our fishing waters. The deal is fantastic news for families and businesses in every part of the UK. We have signed the first free trade agreement based on zero tariffs and zero quotas that has ever been achieved.”

Von der Leyen was more reflective in her comments at a press conference during which she referenced Shakespeare, the Beatles and TS Eliot.

“It was a long and winding road, but we have got a good deal to show for it. It is fair. It is a balanced deal. And it is the right and responsible thing to do for both sides,” she said. “At the end of a successful negotiation I normally feel joy. But today I only feel quiet satisfaction and, frankly speaking, relief.

The deal guarantees “zero tariff and zero quota” trade on goods that were worth £668bn in 2019. But it will also mean significant costs to businesses as exporters face a host of border checks from 1 January and freedom of movement in the EU will end for most UK nationals.

Following the announcement of a deal, the European commission sent the draft treaty to the member states. Should the 27 capitals be content with the deal, ministers on the council of the EU will agree on provisional application of the agreement on 1 January 2021.

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