AAt the end of the day there were 1246 pages to regulate future relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom. On Saturday, both sides published their agreement, anyone can read it – it is not easy to read. In addition to the actual contract text of a good 400 pages, there are appendices with implementation provisions. For example, the catch quota for the next few years is listed for each species of fish or it is specified in detail how the British police may in future query the license plate number of a vehicle registered in the EU.
Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries based in Brussels.
That is the most amazing thing about this agreement: that in nine months of negotiations and only two months of text work came about, which should actually take years. That was what experts and diplomats in Brussels had said over and over again. At the beginning of the talks in March it was said: Without an extension of the transition period by two years, a contractual framework would at best be created. The British always dismissed this as negotiation poker. Boris Johnson did not want to extend for any price in the world. Now he still got a full contract – as promised.
The last issue was fish prices
That was clear on Christmas Eve at exactly 2:44 p.m. Then the British Prime Minister and the President of the EU Commission joined forces for a final video conference. Next to Ursula von der Leyen sat the negotiators Michel Barnier and David Frost, they and their closest colleagues were quartered on the 13th floor of the Berlaymont building, in the presidential wing. It was a long night behind them because another unexpected problem had surfaced: Each side had set the prices for the more than a hundred species of fish differently. This resulted in different quotas for the next few years. Until the morning had been feverishly calculated – then Johnson and von der Leyen also agreed to the result.
It would have been the moment to open a bottle of champagne. It was probably ready chilled. But he wasn’t drunk. It was said afterwards that everyone’s exhaustion was too great. Frost and his people rushed to the station to take the train back to London. Von der Leyen announced the result with Barnier and once again rounded up their commissioners. They recommended it to the member states for approval. Then she too was brought home to her family near Hanover.
The first thing the British saw after the breakthrough in Brussels was a liberated, laughing Prime Minister who threw his arms up and thumbs up. Boris Johnson published the photo from his office on Christmas Eve at three o’clock in the afternoon on Twitter and wrote about it: “The Deal is done”. The victory pose at the desk, which was reminiscent of a footballing gesture of triumph, should apparently make it clear to everyone: Team UK has won – criticism would now be petty.
“Good deal for all of Europe”
In a press conference afterwards, Johnson emphasized that the British had achieved their goals and had now regained control of their laws, their borders and their finances. At the same time he presented the divorce as friendly and spoke of a “good deal for all of Europe”. If the kingdom “does things differently” from now on, it will not be a bad thing for the EU. After all, competition has a stimulating effect on rule-making so that both sides can benefit from it.