'Parting is such sweet sorrow': UK and EU reach 'balanced' post-Brexit trade deal

The Taoiseach said that while there is no such thing as a 'good Brexit' for Ireland, he believes this outcome is the "least bad version of Brexit possible" given current circumstances.
'Parting is such sweet sorrow': UK and EU reach 'balanced' post-Brexit trade deal

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said a "fair and balanced" deal has been reached. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the deal will enable the UK to take back control as was promised in the 2016 referendum.

A post-Brexit trade deal has been agreed by negotiators from the UK and the European Union after months of talks and frantic last-minute wrangling.

The deal was secured on Christmas Eve, a week before current trading arrangements expire.

A UK source said the deal delivered “everything that the British public was promised during the 2016 referendum”.

A “fair and balanced” post-Brexit trade agreement has been reached, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has said.

Ms von der Leyen said: “We have finally found an agreement.

“It was a long and winding road, 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.”

While British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the deal with the European Union will “protect jobs across this country” and has “taken back control of our laws and our destiny”.

No such thing as a 'good Brexit' for Ireland

Picture: Julien Behal Photography/PA Wire
Picture: Julien Behal Photography/PA Wire

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said today's deal is very welcome "after four long years".

He thanked Ms von der Leyen and Michel Barnier for their roles in negotiating the deal.

"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 relationships in the years ahead."

The Taoiseach said that while there is no such thing as a 'good Brexit' for Ireland, he believes this outcome is the "least bad version of Brexit possible" given current circumstances.

Mr Martin said the Government will “consider the detail of the text very carefully”.

“From what we have heard today, I believe that it represents a good compromise and a balanced outcome,” he said.

Mr Martin added: “I hope that this outcome will now be approved by both sides and that the necessary procedures to allow the agreement to enter force on 1 January will proceed smoothly.”

Northern Ireland’s leaders have welcomed the trade deal.

First Minister Arlene Foster described the “start of a new era in the relationship between the UK and the EU, and in Northern Ireland”.

“We will want to maximise the opportunities the new arrangements provide for our local economy,” she said.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “While we have distinctly different political positions on leaving the EU, we are all agreed that it’s in no-one’s interests to leave without a deal, therefore this announcement is good news which will be welcomed across the whole island.

“As an Executive, we will now need to consider the detail of the agreement because there will be many questions on what the agreement means for businesses and citizens, and it is important they get that clarity.”

'It is time to leave Brexit behind, our future is made in Europe'

Picture: Johanna Geron, Pool via AP
Picture: Johanna Geron, Pool via AP

Speaking at a press conference, Ms von der Leyen said: “First of all, competition in our single market will be fair and remain so.

“The EU rules and standards will be respected. We have effective tools to react if fair competition is distorted and impacts our trade.

“Secondly, we will continue cooperating with the UK in all areas of mutual interest, for example in the field of climate change, energy, security and transport.

“Together, we still achieve more than we do apart.

“And thirdly we have secured five and a half years of predictability for our fishing communities.”

She said that Britain remains a trusted partner and a long-standing ally, adding that the EU and UK share the same values and interests.

The EU and the UK will stand shoulder to shoulder to deliver on our common global goals.

Ms von der Leyen said: “Of course, this whole debate has always been about sovereignty.

“But we should cut through the soundbites and ask ourselves what sovereignty actually means in the 21st century.

“It about pooling our strength and speaking together in a world full of great powers.

“In a time of crisis, it is about pulling each other up instead of trying to get back to your feet alone.”

Concluding her remarks, Ms von der Leyen said: “It is time to leave Brexit behind. Our future is made in Europe.

“At the end of a successful negotiation journey, I normally feel joy.

“But today I only feel quiet satisfaction and – frankly speaking – relief.

I know this is a difficult day for some. To our friends in the UK, I want to say: parting is such sweet sorrow.

“But to use a line from TS Eliot: what we call the beginning is often the end, and to make an end is to make a beginning.

“So to all the Europeans, I say: It is time to leave Brexit behind, our future is made in Europe.”

'This country will remain, culturally, emotionally, historically, strategically, geologically attached to Europe'

Speaking at a press conference at 10 Downing Street, Boris Johnson said that for the first time since 1973 the UK “will be an independent coastal state with full control of our waters”, with the UK’s share of fish in its waters rising “substantially from roughly half today to closer to two-thirds in five-and-a-half years’ time”.

The British PM said: "We have completed the biggest deal yet worth £668 billion a year.

“A comprehensive Canada-style deal between the UK and the EU. A deal that will protect jobs across this country, that will enable UK goods to be sold without tariffs, without quotas in the EU market.

“A deal which will allow our companies to do even more business with our European friends.” 

 

Mr Johnson said: “This deal above all means certainty – certainty for the aviation industry, and the hauliers, certainty for the police and border forces, security services and all those we rely on across Europe to keep us all safe.” 

He added: “Above all, it means certainty for business – from financial services to our world-leading manufacturers, our car industry, a certainty for all those who are working in high-skilled jobs in firms and factories across the whole country.

“There will be no palisade of tariffs on January 1, there will be no non-tariff barriers to trade.

“Instead, there will be a giant free trade zone of which we will at once be a member and at the same time be able to do our own free trade deals as one UK.”

Mr Johnson said the deal will enable the UK to take back control as was promised in the 2016 referendum.

We have taken back control of our laws and our destiny. We have taken back control of every jot and tittle of our regulation in a way that is complete and unfettered.

“From January 1 we are outside the customs union and outside the single market.

“British laws will be made solely by the British Parliament interpreted by British judges sitting in UK courts and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will come to an end.”

Directly addressing EU nations, Mr Johnson said that the UK will be “your friend, your ally, your supporter” and “your number one market”.

“And so I say again, directly to our EU friends and partners, I think this deal means a new stability and a new certainty in what has sometimes been a fractious and difficult relationship,” he told a Downing Street press conference.

We will be your friend, your ally, your supporter, and indeed, never let it be forgotten, your number one market.

“Because although we have left the EU, this country will remain, culturally, emotionally, historically, strategically, geologically attached to Europe.

“Not least of course through the four million EU nationals who have requested to settle in the UK over the last four years and who make an enormous contribution to our country and to our lives.”

Asked whether people could trust that life would be better as a result of the deal and that there would not be any disruption, Mr Johnson said: “Short-term, yes, there are things we have to get right, processes maybe people have to do, that they need to be aware of.

“I do believe the freedoms this treaty wins us – basically a new independence from the EU – are worth having.” 

In a reference to the unscheduled press conference gate-crashing the BBC’s television schedule, Mr Johnson added: “I would just say to people watching this – and I’m sorry for disturbing Cars 3 by the way – it’s one thing to get freedom, winning freedom is a fantastic thing.

“But it’s how we use it, how we make the most of it. That’s what’s going to matter in the months and years to come.

“I have no doubt we can do fantastic things with this treaty, with this new relationship which I think will be stable and prosperous for both sides.”

'This agreement will require efforts'

Picture: John Thys, Pool via AP
Picture: John Thys, Pool via AP

The EU’s chief negotiator outlined some of the ways the UK and the EU will work together.

Mr Barnier told a press conference: “We have achieved reciprocal access to waters and to resources, and with the new distribution of fishing quotas and fishing opportunities which has been directly agreed, as is only natural, between the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and Prime Minister Johnson, with taking account of Britain’s new status as an independent coastal state, that is a state which will no longer be part of the common fisheries policy just a few days from now.

“This agreement will require efforts. I know the European Union will support its fishermen and women, will accompany them, and that is our commitment.” 

He continued: “Our partnership also includes co-operation in the field of research and innovation, nuclear safety, space, in the framework of EU programmes.

“In this field, our partnership will also include a non-discrimination policy concerning EU citizens which will apply to visas, to services, and to co-ordinating social security.”

Mr Barnier later outlined two regrets in terms of social co-operation between the UK and EU going forward.

He said: “I have just two regrets in terms of our societal co-operation. Firstly, the British Government decided not to participate in the Erasmus exchange programme.

“Secondly, the level of ambition in terms of mobility assistance is not in line with our historical ties, but that again is a choice of the British Government.” 

Turning back to how the EU and UK will work together, Mr Barnier continued: “Our agreement concerns the security of our citizens, as we’ve always said that our security, that of our citizens, is not up for grabs and combating terrorism and crime requires close co-operation between the European Union and this great country, the United Kingdom.”

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