The European Parliament is preparing to approve this Tuesday the post-Brexit trade agreement reached between the United Kingdom and the European Union (EU), whose provisional application since January 1 has already faced several problems.
– Customs and regulations –
The UK abandoned the European customs union and single market. The agreement makes it possible to avoid the reintroduction of quotas and tariffs on most goods, but British exports must respect European standards that affect trade.
British exports of mussels, oysters and other live shellfish to the EU are no longer possible. Most come from Scotland, where the sector says it is in danger of collapse.
The value of British exports to the EU registered a record drop in January. Despite a 46.6% rebound in February, its level is still lower than the previous year.
The British government assures that the fall is mainly due to the pandemic.
Northern Ireland has its own protocol in the divorce agreement due to its past marked by three decades of bloody conflict.
This British province continues in fact in the European single market to avoid controls at the border with Ireland, an EU country and with which it shares the island.
Goods crossing the Irish Sea from Great Britain must thus be subjected to controls, a solution that angered Northern Irish unionists, who feel betrayed by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The Northern Irish protocol is one of the main causes cited during the riots in the British province at the beginning of the month and leads to new discussions between London and Brussels.
– No free movement –
British and Europeans are now deprived of the freedom of movement that allowed them to easily live or work on either side of the English Channel.
Short-term professional trips are visa-free, but not for musicians, artists and show business employees who need more than 30 days for their tours in Europe.
The rights of more than a million Britons living in the EU are preserved, but subject to certain deadlines to obtain a residence permit, under penalty of being expelled.
European citizens living in the UK must complete their applications by June 30.
– Fishing –
The sensitive issue of access for European fishing vessels to rich British waters resulted in an agreement: the EU fleet will progressively renounce 25% of its fishing quotas over a transition period of five and a half years.
European catches will then be subject to annual negotiations.
If London imposes limits on access to its waters or catches, Brussels may respond with tariffs on fishery products and other British goods or even suspend a good part of the trade agreement.
– Competence –
The EU wants to prevent British companies from being able to offer prices lower than those of their European rivals by applying less stringent labor, environmental or tax rules or by receiving unfair subsidies.
The UK created an independent competition authority, reflecting the role played by the European Commission. Both institutions defend common principles.
Temporary grants in the event of a “national or global economic emergency” such as the pandemic are allowed if they are “proportionate”.
Justice – especially the Court of Justice of the EU, although it is not specifically designated in this part of the treaty – will decide on the measures to be taken in the event of unfair subsidies.
– Financial services –
The deal does not include financial services, important to the British economy. The two parties reached a cooperation agreement protocol last month, the details of which are unknown.
International banks had already prepared for the worst by strengthening their positions in Europe and thus allowing a smooth transition when the UK left the customs union.
But the City of London, which lost its position as Europe’s top financial center to Amsterdam in January, wants a long-term deal to be struck.
bur-jit / spe / gmo / abx / tjc / mb