Boris Johnson said the Brexit deal is the country’s Christmas gift – a “feast” after he promised a “oven-ready deal.”
The prime minister also used a Christmas message to say he believes the agreement will be the basis of a “happy and successful” relationship with the European Union.
“I have a small gift for anyone who might be looking for something to read in the quiet lunch moment after Christmas,” the prime minister said in a Christmas message photographed by Downing Street and posted on Twitter.
Then he stuck to the 500-page document and said, “Great good news, because this is a bargain, a deal to give certainty to companies, travelers, and all investors in our country from next year.”
“A deal with our friends and partners in the European Union.”
Johnson also said that the “pre-stove deal” he promised during the 2019 election was “only the beginning” and that the 500-page deal was “the Eid.”
A trade deal was finally sealed at 1:44 pm on Christmas Eve after nine months of often bitter negotiations.
It will come into effect on January 1 and means Britain has avoided leaving the European Union without a deal.
The legal text has not yet been published, but the prime minister claims it will allow companies to “do more business with our European friends” while “regaining control over our laws and our destiny” – echoing a key message in the vote to leave campaign.
Announcements expected by Britain and the European Union are constantly delayed throughout Christmas Eve as frantic last-minute talks take place.
One of the biggest sticking points – fishing rights – continued to derail the agreement.
At a Downing Street press conference after the deal was struck, Johnson said: “We have regained control of our laws and our destiny. We have regained control of every atom and few of our regulations in a complete and unrestricted manner.
“As of January 1, we are outside the customs union and outside the single market.
“British laws will only be drawn up by the British Parliament, and interpreted by British judges in the UK Courts, and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will expire.”
Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer described it as a “lean” bargain “that did not adequately protect” British manufacturing, financial services, the creative industries, or workers’ rights.
But he added that his party would support that in a vote expected in the House of Commons next week.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, also made a bleak note from Johnson, saying: “We finally reached an agreement.
“It has been a long and winding road, but we have a lot to show.
“It is a fair deal, it is a balanced deal, and it is the right and responsible thing for both sides.”
There will be a transition period of five and a half years for the fishing industry, and cooperation will continue on issues including climate change, energy, security and transportation.
Carriers cautiously welcomed the trade agreement and warned drivers that time to adjust to changes to the French border was needed.
Truck drivers will face customs checks upon entering France from January 1, while they will also need a permit to access canal crossings in Kent as part of plans to stop county roads from being blocked by potential delays.
The Road Transport Association said it feared its members would be affected by “massive amounts of new paperwork” and called on the government to grant a six-month implementation period from the start of 2021 to allow drivers to get used to the new system.
Eurotunnel operator Jetlink said the trade deal “will benefit both businesses and travelers alike”.
The company also said it is creating the Eurotunnel Border Pass, a “digital wallet” to allow carriers to store the information needed for their goods to cross borders without having to present physical documents.
Johnson said the deal covers a trade worth about 660 billion pounds that means:
- Goods and components can be sold without tariffs and quotas in the European Union market.
- This would allow the share of fish in British waters that the UK can catch to rise from about half now to two-thirds by the end of the five and a half years transition period.
- Allegations of unfair competition will be judged by an independent third-party jury with the possibility of a “proportionate” response.
The prime minister acknowledged that he was forced to waive his hunting demands, and admitted that he was not getting everything he wanted in the vital financial services sector.
Parliament will be called from the Christmas recess to vote on the deal on December 30th, although MPs have been urged not to return in person to the House of Commons due to the pandemic unless it is “absolutely necessary.”
It will almost certainly be approved but Mr Johnson could face opposition from Brexit proponents.
The Tory European Research Group has promised a “star room” of attorneys to look into more than 500 pages of the deal.
The agreement also needs to be approved by the 27 member states of the European Union – their diplomats will receive a briefing on Christmas Day from chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
The European Parliament is unlikely to vote on the deal until the new year, which means its implementation should be temporary in order to give it the green light.