By JILL LAWLESS and RAF CASERT, Associated Press
London (AP) – First came the Brexit trade deal. Now comes the red tape and the institutional kitty gritty.
Four days after a free trade agreement was sealed with the European Union, the British government on Monday warned businesses to be prepared for disruptions and “bumpy moments” when the new rules took effect.
Firms are scrambling to digest the details and implications of the 1,240-page deal sealed by the EU and the UK on Christmas Eve, just a week before the year’s deadline.
Meanwhile, ambassadors of 27 EU nations gave their consensus on the deal on Monday.
“Green light,” said German spokesman Sebastian Fischer, whose country currently holds the presidency of the European Union.
The approval was expected, as the deal has been warmly welcomed by all EU leaders, built on a credible move to build post-Brexit relations between Britain and former member Britain.
However, the deal has not ended the mistrust between Britain and its neighbors over several months of horrific negotiations.
The French president said in a statement that France would remain “very cautious on the very first day” about the implementation of the deal, particularly to protect French companies and fisheries “if Britain disobeys its commitments.”
The agreement requires approval from the UK Parliament, which is scheduled to vote on Wednesday, and from the EU legislature, which is not expected to take the deal for weeks. Leaders of political groups in the European Parliament said they would not seek full approval until March due to specific and far-reaching implications of the agreement. There is a high expectation that EU lawmakers will approve the deal.
Britain left the European Union almost a year ago, but remained within the economic embrace of the bloc during a transition period, which ends in London at 11 am – 31 pm – Brussels at 11 pm.
After negotiations over the agreement that lasted for more than nine months, Britain would ensure and the 27-nation bloc could continue to trade goods without tariffs or quotas. It should help protect 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 of Britain’s membership in the EU’s huge single market and customs union will still bring inconvenience and new expense to both individuals and businesses – from the need for tourists to travel insurance to the millions of new customs announcements that firms must fill outside.
The British Cabinet Minister in charge of Brexit preparedness, Michael Gove, told the BBC, “I am sure there will be moments there but we can try to do everything so that we can smooth the way.”
The conservative government of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson argues that any short-term disruption from Brexit would be worth it, as Britain would now be free to set its own rules and strike new trade deals around the world.
Yet if UK-EU trade faces heavy sanctions this month, there may be a big preview when France cuts its border with Britain due to a very new change of coronovirus sweeping through London and southern England Briefly closed. Thousands of trucks were stuck in traffic jams or parked on an unused airfield near the English Channel port of Dover for days and supermarkets warned that soon some goods, including fresh produce, would run short.
Even after that France relied and agreed to go to truck drivers testing negative for the virus, the backlog of 15,000 drivers who now required testing took days to clear.
Despite the deal, uncertainty hangs over the bulk of relations between Britain and the European Union. The agreement covers merchandise trade, but limits the UK’s vast financial services sector, yet is uncertain how easily it can trade after January. 1. The British territory of Gibraltar, which crosses thousands of workers daily from Spain, is also in Limbo because it was not involved in the deal.
“This is not a final deal in many cases,” said Jill Rutter of the UK at the changing Europe think tank, noting that major decisions are yet to come in many areas.
And the deal has angered an area the UK government vowed to protect: fishing. The economically minor but highly symbolic issue of fishing rights was an important point in the negotiations, with maritime EU countries seeking to maintain access to UK waters, and Britain insisting on controlling its seas.
Under the deal, the European Union will give a quarter of the quota in the UK’s water sector, which is much lower than the 80% UK-initiated demand. The system will be phased out over 5 1/2 years, after which the quota will be reclaimed.
“I am angry, disappointed and unfaithful,” said Andrew Locker, president of Britain’s National Federation of Fishermen’s Organizations. “Boris Johnson has promised us the rights to all the fish that swim in our Special Economic Zone and we got a fraction of that.”
Report of the dessert from Brussels. Geir Moulsen in Berlin and Sylvie Korbet in Paris contributed.
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