WLess than a week before the end of the Brexit transition phase, Great Britain and the EU published their laboriously negotiated trade pact for the time afterwards. Both sides put the 1250-page document online on their websites on Boxing Day. The contract is intended to regulate issues relating to trade, cooperation between the police and the judiciary, and health insurance protection for travelers in emergencies.
London and Brussels announced a breakthrough in talks on a joint trade pact on Christmas Eve at the best German Christmas presents. 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.
In the “sleepy moment after the Christmas meal”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had previously recommended the treaty to his compatriots as a Christmas reading. If you want to read something in this “sleepy moment after the Christmas meal”, he recommends reading the trade pact, he said in a video Christmas message broadcast on Twitter.
It is doubtful that Johnson read it himself. Because the prime minister said there would be no non-tariff trade barriers. This is exactly what companies on both sides of the English Channel have to prepare for within a few days. This means, for example, different standards for product safety and food safety. The rules are still the same on both sides, but British companies will still have to prove compliance with European standards in the future.
France has already announced that it will insist on thorough controls right from the turn of the year. “We have to control British products that come to us,” said Secretary of State for Europe Clément Beaune on Friday on the Europe 1 channel. Food or industrial products must comply with all applicable standards. The French state recruited around 1,300 people to ensure these controls.
France is a major hub for British goods. About 70 percent of the trade volume between Great Britain and the EU runs through the northern French ports of Calais and Dunkirk, as well as through the Eurotunnel, as the prefecture for the northern French region of Hauts-de-France reported.
The chaos that arises when traffic no longer flows unhindered through this important axis has been observed since the fourth weekend of Advent in the English border region of Kent: After France temporarily closed the borders because of a possibly highly contagious coronavirus variant discovered in Great Britain Miles of traffic jams with thousands of trucks. The drivers had to stay in their cabins for days.
In fact a new customs border
From January 2021, customs formalities would also have to be complied with, emphasized Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI), a state-owned company that provides information on foreign markets, among other things. Since Great Britain is leaving the internal market and the customs union, a new customs border will actually come into force, said Stefanie Eich, customs expert at GTAI. In the case of goods from the EU destined for the British market, it must in future be proven that they actually come from the EU. “The rules of origin for individual goods are laid down in the agreement. Compliance with these must be demonstrated accordingly, ”says the expert.
On the European side, there is no longer enough time until December 31st to ratify the last-minute deal in time. Therefore, the contract can initially only be applied provisionally. However, this still needs the approval of the 27 EU countries. The EU ambassadors should vote on this in the coming days, a meeting is scheduled for Monday. The EU Parliament then has to examine the agreement retrospectively in January. In London, on the other hand, Parliament is due to wave through a law on December 30th in a fast-track process to make the agreement effective. Since the opposition British Labor Party has announced that it will approve the deal, the vote in London is considered a formality.
Prime Minister Johnson tried over the holidays, however, to bring the arch-conservative Brexiteers in their own ranks, who are threatening rebellion, into line. The contract was “the right deal for Great Britain,” he said according to the PA news agency in WhatsApp messages to his party friends. It will enable the country to keep its Brexit promises and regain control of its own borders, laws and funds. In addition, the agreement is a basis for a long-term, friendly relationship with the EU as a sovereign, equal partner.
British fisheries associations have already criticized the negotiated transition phase, in which EU fishermen initially only have to give up a quarter of their previous fishing quotas in British waters, as a defeat. A senior representative of the UK negotiating team said Saturday that the fishery had to be compromised. However, both sides have done so and the main thing is that the UK return to “full control of our waters” at the end of the five and a half year transition period, the negotiator said. If London later restricts access further, Brussels could respond with tariffs.