Britain, EU reach Brexit deal
London/Brussels – Britain clinched a narrow Brexit trade deal with the European Union (EU) on Thursday, just seven days before it exits one of the world’s biggest trading blocs in its most significant global shift since the loss of empire.
The deal, agreed more than four years after Britain voted narrowly to leave the bloc, means it has averted a chaotic finale to the tortuous divorce that has shaken the 70-year project to forge European unity from the ruins of World War Two.
It will preserve Britain’s zero-tariff and zero-quota access to the bloc’s single market of 450 million consumers, but will not prevent economic pain and disruption for the United Kingdom or for EU member states.
Many aspects of Britain’s future relationship with the EU remain to be hammered out, possibly over years.
“It was a long and winding road,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters. “But we have got a good deal to show for it. It is fair, it is a balanced deal, and it is the right and responsible thing to do for both sides.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted a picture of himself inside Downing Street, raising both arms in a thumbs-up gesture of triumph. “We have taken back control of our destiny,” he told reporters. “People said it was impossible, but we have taken back control.”
“We will be an independent coastal state,” he said. “We will be able to decide how and where to stimulate new jobs.”
The UK formally left the EU on January 31 but has since been in a transition period under which rules on trade, travel and business remained unchanged until the end of this year.
Johnson described the last-minute agreement as a “jumbo” free trade deal along the lines of that done between the European Union and Canada, and urged Britain to move on from the divisions caused by the 2016 Brexit referendum. (Reuters)