It avoids the disruption of a no-deal Brexit in the middle of the Covid pandemic, and marks a new era after more than 40 years of UK membership of the European Union. We’ve now seen a copy of the text – more than a thousand pages of dense legal text which outline how the relationship will operate in the future.
The value of the fish caught by the EU in UK waters will be cut by 25% – which is a lot less than the UK initially asked for.
2. The “level playing field”
There are level playing field measures which commit both the UK and the EU to maintain common standards on workers rights, as well as many social and environmental regulations. This was a key EU demand.
3. Dispute resolution
If either side moves away from common standards that exist on 31 December 2020, and if that has a negative impact on the other side, a dispute mechanism can be triggered which could mean tariffs (taxes on goods) being imposed.
4. European Court of Justice (ECJ)
The EU has dropped its demand that the ECJ should play a direct role in policing the governance of the agreement in future. That was a clear British red line. One place where the ECJ will still play a role is Northern Ireland, which has a special status under the terms of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
UK nationals will need a visa if they want to stay in the EU more than 90 days in a 180-day period. They will still be able to use their EHICs which will remain valid until they expire. The UK government says they will be replaced by a new UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), but there are no further details yet on how to obtain it.
6. Financial services
There is, as expected, not a lot in this agreement for service companies to cheer about. The UK will still be hoping that the EU issues an “equivalence” decision on financial services in the near future, but service companies in general have not got as much help in this deal as the British government had been pushing for. The guaranteed access that UK companies had to the EU single market is over.
Both sides say they want data to flow across borders as smoothly as possible, but the agreement also stresses that individuals have a right to the protection of personal data and privacy and that “high standards in this regard contribute to trust in the digital economy and to the development of trade.”
8. Product standards
There’s no agreement on conformity assessment even though the UK government had hoped there would be. It’s just one reminder of how many new barriers to trade there are going to be. In future, if you want to sell your product in both the UK and the EU, you may have to get it checked twice to get it certified.
9. Professional qualifications
The short answer is no – they won’t be recognised automatically. That will make it harder for UK citizens supplying any kind of service to work in the EU. They will often have to apply to individual countries to try to get their qualifications accepted, with no guarantee of success.
The UK loses access to some very key databases but will have continued access to others, including the system which cross-checks fingerprints across the continent. But overall, security cooperation will no longer be based on “real time” access. And in some cases, such as access to data on which flights people take, that data will only be made available under much stricter conditions.