Boris Johnson has said the Brexit trade agreement is his Christmas present to the country – serving as “the feast” after he promised an “oven ready deal”.
The prime minister also used his Christmas message to say he believes the agreement will be the basis of a “happy and successful” relationship with the EU.
Speaking in a Christmas message filmed by Downing Street which he shared on Twitter, the prime minister said: “I have a small present for anybody who may be looking for something to read in that sleepy post-Christmas lunch moment.”
He then clutched the 500-page document and said: “Glad tidings of great joy, because this is a deal, a deal to give certainty to businesses and travellers, and all investors in our country from next year.
“A deal with our friends and partners in the EU.”
Mr Johnson also said the “oven ready deal” he promised during the 2019 election was “just the starter” and the 500-page agreement was “the feast”.
A trade deal was finally struck at 1:44pm on Christmas Eve following nine months of often bitter negotiations.
It will come into force on 1 January and means Britain has avoided a no-deal departure from the EU.
The legal text has yet to be published, but the prime minister claims it will allow companies “to do even more business with our European friends” while “taking back control of our laws and our destiny” – echoing a key message of the Vote Leave campaign.
Expected announcements by Britain and the EU were continually delayed throughout Christmas Eve as frantic last-minute talks took place.
One of the biggest sticking points – fishing rights – continued to hold up the agreement.
In a Downing Street press conference after the deal was reached, Mr Johnson said: “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 1 January 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.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has branded it a “thin” deal that “does not provide adequate protections” for British manufacturing, financial services, creative industries or workers’ rights.
However, he added his party would back it in a vote which is expected to take place in the Commons next week.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen also struck a more sombre note than Mr Johnson, stating: “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.”
There will be a five-and-a-half year transition period for the fishing industry, and co-operation will continue on issues including climate change, energy, security and transport.
Hauliers have cautiously welcomed the trade deal and warned drivers needed time to adapt to changes at the French border.
Lorry drivers will face customs checks when entering France from 1 January, while they will also require a permit to access channel crossings in Kent as part of plans to stop the county’s roads being clogged up by potential delays.
The Road Haulage Association said it feared its members will be hit by “vast amounts of new paperwork” and called on the government to grant a six-month implementation period from the start of 2021 to allow drivers to get used to the new system.
Eurotunnel operator Getlink said the trade deal will “benefit both businesses and travellers alike”.
The firm also said it was creating the Eurotunnel Border Pass, a “digital wallet” to allow hauliers to store the information needed for their goods to cross the border without having to present physical documents.
Mr Johnson has said the deal covers trade worth around £660 billion and means:
- Goods and components can be sold without tariffs and quotas in the EU market.
- It will allow the share of fish in British waters that the UK can catch to rise from around half now to two-thirds by the end of the five-and-a-half year transition.
- Allegations of unfair competition will be judged by an independent third-party arbitration panel with the possibility of a “proportionate” response.
The prime minister acknowledged he had been forced to give ground on his demands on fishing and conceded he had not got all he wanted on the vitally important financial services sector.
Parliament will be recalled from its Christmas break to vote on the deal on 30 December, though MPs have been urged not to return in person to the Commons because of the pandemic unless it is “absolutely necessary”.
It is almost certain to be approved but Mr Johnson could face opposition from hardline Brexiteers.
The Tory European Research Group has promised to convene a “star chamber” of lawyers to pore over the 500 pages of the deal.
The agreement also has to be approved by the 27 EU members – and their diplomats will receive a Christmas Day briefing from lead negotiator Michel Barnier.
The European Parliament is unlikely to vote on the deal until the new year, meaning its application will have to be provisional until they give it the green light.