UPDATED, 7 AM PT: After four and a half long years in European politics, the UK and European Union have finalized terms on a Brexit free trade deal, averting the possibility of a “no deal” Brexit when the transition period ends at midnight on December 31.
As per our earlier story below, the deal will need to be ratified by the UK and EU parliaments. Today there were celebrations on both sides.
“We have finally found an agreement,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in the immediacy after the deal was announced. “It was a long and winding road, but we have got a good deal to show for it.”
“The clock is no longer ticking,” added EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier. “Today is a day of relief, but tinged by some sadness as we compare what came before with what lies ahead.”
“Everything that the British public was promised during the 2016 referendum and in the general election last year is delivered by this deal,” read a statement released by UK PM Boris Johnson’s office. “We have taken back control of our money, borders, laws, trade and our fishing waters. The deal is fantastic news for families and businesses in every part of the UK.
“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 £668bn in 2019. The deal also guarantees that we are no longer 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.”
On the industry side, Caroline Norbury, CEO, Creative Industries Federation, had a mixed reaction to the news:
“After a year that has hit the UK’s creative industries hard, it comes as a huge relief for many that a deal with the EU has finally been reached, and that a new chapter of our relationship can begin. It is now vital that we avoid a cliff-edge on key arrangements that have enabled our world-leading sector to thrive, such as ease of movement and data adequacy.
“Although we await the finer details of the agreement, first sights include some notable disappointments for the creative industries, such as confirmation that the UK will not be part of the Erasmus scheme and that there will be no more automatic recognition of professional qualifications in fields such as architecture.
“As the UK approaches this critical juncture, it is vital that we continue to prosper as a global leader in creativity. With just seven days to go before the transition period ends, we urge the government to resolve and mitigate these key issues so that our creative sector can do what it does best – create, innovate and generate world-leading ideas that ultimately enrich our lives, communities and country.”
Here are a selection of further reactions on social media.
The deal is done. pic.twitter.com/zzhvxOSeWz
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) December 24, 2020
European Council president Charles Michel cautioned that the deal must yet be ratified beyond the negotiation stage:
The announcement of an agreement at negotiators’ level on the 🇪🇺🇬🇧 future relationship is a major step forward!
— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) December 24, 2020
Former UK PM Theresa May said she was looking forward to seeing the details of the deal:
Very welcome news that the UK & EU have reached agreement on the terms of a deal – one that provides confidence to business and helps keep trade flowing. Looking forward to seeing the detail in the coming days.
— Theresa May (@theresa_may) December 24, 2020
Former UK PM David Cameron also chimed in. The Brexit negotiations outlasted both his and May’s tenures:
It’s good to end a difficult year with some positive news. Trade deal is very welcome – and a vital step in building a new relationship with the EU as friends, neighbours and partners. Many congratulations to the UK negotiating team.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) December 24, 2020
Irish PM Michael Martin:
#Brexit deal is very welcome after four long years of negotiations. Thanks to @vonderleyen & @MichelBarnier & team. While we will miss the UK from the European Union, the fact that a deal is now in place means we can focus on how we manage good relationship in the years ahead.
— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) December 24, 2020
PREVIOUSLY, 2:30AM PST: After a weeks, months and years of topsy-turvy Brexit negotiations, it looks like the UK and European Union may be about to strike a Christmas Eve deal.
Despite recent messaging that a ‘no-deal’ scenario was now the most likely outcome when the deadline passes at midnight on December 31, word out of both Downing Street and Brussels has changed overnight and it now seems terms are close to being agreed.
Legal text was finalized as the midnight oil burned yesterday, according to numerous reports including in the Financial Times, and a document that could reach hundreds of pages and upwards in length should be unveiled today.
“Grabbing some sleep is recommended to all Brexit-watchers at this point. It will hopefully be an early start tomorrow morning,” Eric Mamer, the European Commission’s chief spokesperson tweeted last night.
One potential hitch could be EU fishing rights in UK waters, which has continually been a thorny topic during talks, but this is also expected to now be resolved.
The deal will preserve tariff-free trading between the UK and the EU and will also cover topics including security.
Any deal will need to be approved by parliament before it is ratified. That will not be made easier by the Christmas period and national holidays, but the FT is reporting MPs have been told to expect to convene for an emergency session on December 30. The European Parliament could potentially provisionally apply the deal and vote on it in 2021.
The impact a deal will have on the film and TV biz will not immediately be clear, and organisations will need days to wade through its details and ascertain the specifics, but industry circles have been nervous about the potentially nuclear option of a no-deal scenario, so today’s news is likely to provoke a mixture of positivity and trepidation.
Deal or no, the UK’s exiting of the EU is going to be disruptive for the creative industries, with the introduction of movement restrictions and visas and extra paperwork for productions. A deal, however, is expected to reduce the overall negative impact, such as making fewer business activities subject to work permits, for example.
Boris Johnson is expected to have a final call with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen this morning UK time. Deadline will keep you posted.
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