UK Warns of ‘Bumpy’ Post-Brexit Transition Despite Deal

December 28, 2020by Jill Colvin, Lisa Mascaro and Andrew Taylor, Associated Press
A colleague wears a Christmas hat as European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier, center, carries a binder of the Brexit trade deal during a special meeting of Coreper, at the European Council building in Brussels, Friday, Dec. 25, 2020. (Olivier Hoslet, Pool via AP)

LONDON (AP) — First came the Brexit trade deal. Now comes the red tape and the institutional nitty gritty.

Four days after sealing a free trade agreement with the European Union, the British government warned businesses to get ready for disruptions and “bumpy moments” when the new rules take effect on Thursday night.

Businesses were scrambling Monday to digest the details and implications of the 1,240-page deal sealed by the EU and the U.K. on Christmas Eve.

EU ambassadors, meanwhile, gave their unanimous approval Monday to the Brexit trade deal with the U.K. Germany, which holds the EU presidency, said the decision came during a meeting to assess the Christmas Eve agreement.

“Green light,” said Germany’s spokesman Sebastian Fischer.

The approval had been expected ever since all EU leaders warmly welcomed it. It still needs approval from the EU’s legislature, which is expected to come in February. The U.K’s House of Commons is expected to approve it on Wednesday.

The U.K. left the EU almost a year ago, but remained within the bloc’s economic embrace during a transition period that ends at midnight Brussels time — 11 p.m. in London — on Dec. 31.

The agreement, hammered out after nine months of tense negotiations, will ensure Britain and the 27-nation bloc can continue to trade in goods without tariffs or quotas. That should help protect the 660 billion pounds ($894 billion) in annual trade between the two sides, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs that rely on it.

But the end to Britain’s membership in the EU’s vast single market and customs union will still bring inconvenience and new expenses for both individuals and businesses — from the need for tourists to have travel insurance to the millions of new customs declarations that firms will have to fill out.

“Businesses will need to make sure that they’re ready for new customs procedures and we as individuals will need to make sure that our passports are up to date because they need to have at least six months before expiry on them in order to be able to travel abroad,” said Michael Gove, the British Cabinet minister in charge of Brexit preparations.

“I’m sure there will be bumpy moments but we are there in order to try to do everything we can to smooth the path,” he told the BBC.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government argues that any short-term disruption from Brexit will be worth it, because the U.K. will now be free to set its own rules and strike new trade deals around the world.

Yet an ominous preview of what could happen if U.K.-EU trade faces heavy restrictions came this month when France briefly closed its border with Britain because of a highly transmissible new variant of the coronavirus sweeping through London and southern England. Thousands of trucks were stuck in traffic jams or parked at a disused airfield near the English Channel port of Dover for days and supermarkets warned that some goods, including fresh produce would soon run short.

Even after France relented and agreed to let in truckers who tested negative for the virus, the backlog of 15,000 drivers who now needed tests took days to clear.

Hardline pro-Brexit legislators in Johnson’s Conservative Party are poring over the agreement to see whether it meets their goal of a decisive break from the bloc. The main opposition Labour Party says the deal will hurt Britain’s economy but it will back it anyway because it is better than a chaotic no-deal split on Jan. 1.

Despite the deal, uncertainty hangs over huge chunks of the relationship between Britain and the EU. The agreement covers trade in goods, but leaves the U.K.’s huge financial services sector in limbo, still uncertain how easily it can do business with the bloc after Jan. 1. The British territory of Gibraltar, which sees thousands of workers cross over daily from Spain, is also in limbo since it was not included in the deal.

And Brexit deal has angered one of the sectors the government stressed it would protect: fishing. The economically minor but hugely symbolic issue of fishing rights was a sticking point in negotiations, with maritime EU nations seeking to retain access to U.K. waters, and Britain insisting it must control its seas.

Under the deal, the EU will give up a quarter of the quota it catches in U.K. waters, far less than the 80% that Britain initially demanded. The system will be phased in over 5 1/2 years, after which the quotas will be reassessed.

“I am angry, disappointed and betrayed,” said Andrew Locker, chairman of Britain’s National Federation of Fishermen’s Organizations. “Boris Johnson promised us the rights to all the fish that swim in our exclusive economic zone and we have got a fraction of that.”

Brexit

UK Warns of 'Bumpy' Post-Brexit Transition Despite Deal
Brexit
UK Warns of 'Bumpy' Post-Brexit Transition Despite Deal

LONDON (AP) — First came the Brexit trade deal. Now comes the red tape and the institutional nitty gritty. Four days after sealing a free trade agreement with the European Union, the British government warned businesses to get ready for disruptions and “bumpy moments” when the... Read More

UK and EU Reach Post-Brexit Trade Agreement
Brexit
UK and EU Reach Post-Brexit Trade Agreement

BRUSSELS (AP) — Just a week before the deadline, Britain and the European Union struck a free-trade deal Thursday that should avert economic chaos on New Year's and bring a measure of certainty for businesses after years of Brexit turmoil. Once ratified by both sides, the... Read More

Brexit Talks Given Fresh Impetus by High-Stakes Diplomatic Push
Foreign Affairs
Brexit Talks Given Fresh Impetus by High-Stakes Diplomatic Push

The topsy-turvy trade talks between the U.K. and the European Union took another somersault on Sunday when Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen opted to ignore a self-imposed deadline and give negotiators another shot at closing a deal. After the British prime minister and the... Read More

Brexit Talks Resume With Just 7 Weeks Left to Reach a Deal
Brexit
Brexit Talks Resume With Just 7 Weeks Left to Reach a Deal

BRUSSELS — U.K. and European Union officials have the next seven weeks to find something that has eluded them since March: an agreement over their future relationship. After a brief summer hiatus, face-to-face discussions will resume in Brussels on Tuesday. Over dinner, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s... Read More

European Parliament Approves UK‘s Departure From the EU
Brexit
European Parliament Approves UK‘s Departure From the EU
January 29, 2020
by Dan McCue

The European Parliament approved the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement Wednesday, paving the way for the U.K. to leave the EU on Friday. The vote in the European Parliament was 621-49. After the vote, emotional members of parliament sang "Auld Lang Syne." Signing the letter confirming the EU's... Read More

Johnson’s Conservatives Garner Impressive Win, Paving Way for Speedy Brexit
United Kingdom
Johnson’s Conservatives Garner Impressive Win, Paving Way for Speedy Brexit

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party appeared to win a decisive parliamentary majority in Thursday’s election, putting the country on track for a historic rupture with the European Union early next year. With all 650 seats in Parliament up for grabs in the... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top