London: Britain and the European Union have settled most of the terms of a bitter divorce proceeding that dragged on for more than four years.
But finally the deal is done – a watershed moment in Britain’s departure from the EU.
If approved by British and European parliament, the agreement would take effect on January 1, four and a half years after a narrow majority of Britons voted to leave the European Union, plunging their country into bitter debate over how to do it.
Essentially, Thursday’s agreement contains a blueprint of how the two sides will coexist after severing deep ties built over a 47-year relationship.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson sounded elated when speaking shortly after the announcement of the deal. “We’ve taken back control of our laws and our destiny,” he said at 10 Downing Street. He called the agreement a “deal that will protect jobs across this country,” adding, “For the time since 1973, we will be an independent coastal nation with control of our own waters.”
Sources at No10 said the terms meant the UK will not be in the 'lunar pull of the EU'. 'We are not bound by EU rules, there is no role for the European Court of Justice and all of our key red lines about returning sovereignty have been achieved,' the source explained. 'It means that we will have full political and economic independence on 1st January 2021.'
Johnson's decision to take personal charge of the negotiations at the weekend is believed to have been critical in breaking the deadlock. There was a last-minute protest by French president Emmanuel Macron - long seen as the biggest obstacle to an agreement, with his demands on fishing rights.
Macron, who faces elections in 2022, had been desperate to keep his powerful fishing industry onside. Tensions rose between London and Paris at the weekend when the French government decided to shut its borders for 48 hours after the emergence of a newer, more infectious strain of coronavirus.
"We have got Brexit done and we can now take full advantage of the fantastic opportunities available to us as an independent trading nation, striking trade deals with other partners around the world," Downing Street said in a statement.
"We have signed the first free trade agreement based on zero tariffs and zero quotas that has ever been achieved with the EU. The deal is the biggest bilateral trade deal signed by either side, covering trade worth GBP 668 billion in 2019," it said, adding that the UK has taken back control of its "money, borders, laws, trade and our fishing waters".
On the other side, the EU said it has a good deal to show for the "long and winding road".