Last edited 28 Dec 2020

Trade And Cooperation Agreement Between The European Union And The United Kingdom

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On 24 December 2020 it was announced that a Trade and Cooperation Agreement had been reached between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the European Union (EU). In addition, agreement has been reached on nuclear cooperation, security procedures and the protection of classified information.

Agreement came in response to the referendum of 2016 in which 51.9% voted to leave the EU.

The agreement is structured in 7 parts:

  1. Part 1 covers the common and institutional provisions in the Agreement.
  2. Part 2 covers trade and other economic aspects of the relationship, such as aviation, energy, road transport, and social security.
  3. Part 3 covers cooperation on law enforcement and criminal justice.
  4. Part 4 covers 'thematic' issues such as health collaboration.
  5. Part 5 covers participation in EU Programmes, principally scientific collaboration through Horizon.
  6. Part 6 covers dispute settlement.
  7. Part 7 sets out the final provisions.

The key element of the agreement is that there will be no tariffs or quotas on the movement of goods between the UK and the EU where goods meet the relevant rules of origin. The agreement also includes provision to support trade in services (including financial services and legal services). In addition, there are provisions in relation the recognition of qualifications, the regulatory framework, entry and stay for personal and business purposes, financial services, public procurement, fair competition and sustainable development.

The agreement is based on international law, rather that EU law, with no role for the European Court of Justice. Instead, a process of independent arbitration is introduced.

A Partnership Council will supervise the operation of the agreement at a political level, providing strategic direction. The Partnership Council will be supported by a network of other committees, including a committee on trade.

Boris Johnson wrote: “…we will take back control of our trade policy and leave the EU customs union and single market. We will take back control of our waters, with this treaty affirming British sovereignty over our vast marine wealth. We will take back control of our money by ending vast payments to the EU. We will take back control of our borders and will introduce our new points-based immigration system at the start of next year. Most importantly, the agreement provides for the UK to take back control of our laws, affording no role for EU law and no jurisdiction for the European Court of Justice.”

The agreement was broadly welcomed by business and by opposition political parties, although the SNP indicated that they will vote against the deal when it comes before parliament. The party's Westminster leader Ian Blackford described the agreement as a "disaster for Scotland", suggesting that it would “…end our freedom of movement rights, and impose mountains of red tape, added costs and barriers to trade for Scottish businesses.”

In addition, concerns have been raised regarding the imposition of new paperwork, particularly in relation to the import and export of goods; the very limited amount of time available for businesses to implement new procedures; the lack of guidance available to help businesses understand the agreement (which amounts to 1246 pages), and fishing rights.

The agreement comes into force at 11pm on 31 December 2020.

The details of the agreement can be seen at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/agreements-reached-between-the-united-kingdom-of-great-britain-and-northern-ireland-and-the-european-union

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