Brussels: Starting on January 1, the relationship between the EU and the UK will depend on the post-Brexit trade agreement they concluded last week after ten months of intense negotiations.
The 1,246-page document sets out the fine print on how disputes over trade will be addressed and on the politically sensitive issue of fishing rights.
The pact, agreed on December 24, will come into force provisionally in the EU pending a vote by the European Parliament expected next month.
The agreement avoids tariffs or quotas between the UK and the EU on almost all goods produced between the two countries.
Britain’s export products must comply with the EU’s health and safety standards and compliance rules, and there are strict rules for the use of products produced in the EU or outside the UK.
The UK refused any role for the EU’s European Court of Justice, so disputes will be addressed by the WTO or ad hoc arbitration tribunals made up of three independent legal and trade experts, should consultations fail.
That overall treaty will be overseen by a “Partnership Council” with representatives from both sides.
Various committees under that Council will supervise the different aspects of the treaty. There is also an option for MPs and MEPs to form a “Parliamentary Partnership Assembly”.
The thorny issue of EU fishermen’s access to Britain’s rich waters has been compromised: EU ships will gradually abandon 25% of their current quota during the five and a half years of transition.
After that, there will be annual negotiations on the amount of fish that EU ships can obtain from British waters.
If the United Kingdom restricts access to or fishing from the EU, Brussels can retaliate by imposing tariffs on British fishery products or other commodities, and even suspend most trade agreements while maintaining fair competition rules.
The arbitral tribunal can be required to ensure that the punishment is commensurate with the evidence of damage.
-A level playing field-
The EU insists on “fair competition” regulations to prevent British companies from weakening European competitors with lower labor, environmental or tax standards or unfair subsidies.
The United Kingdom will establish an independent body to determine competition law, as opposed to the role played by the European Commission, both of which follow common principles.
Temporary subsidies in response to “national or global economic emergencies” (for example, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic) will not be banned in “proportional” places.
Both courts-including the European Court of Justice, although not specifically named in this part of the treaty-will be responsible for unfair subsidies to determine trade remedies.
– Customs –
Britain will leave the EU customs union with the single market at the end of this year, which means that companies will face new red tape for cross-strait imports and exports.
Britain said that the agreement allows the recognition of a “trusted trader” program that can reduce bureaucracy on both sides, but it is not yet widely applicable.
– Security –
The deal will see the two sides continue to share DNA, fingerprint and passenger details and see them cooperate through the EU’s Europol.
Brussels says “security cooperation can be suspended in case of violations by the UK of its commitment for continued adherence to the European Convention of Human Rights”.
Despite reaching an agreement, the two sides warned that people and companies across Europe will face “significant changes” from January 1.
Citizens of the UK and EU will no longer enjoy free movement to live and work between the two.
“The free movement of persons, goods, services and capital between the UK and the EU will end,” Brussels said in a statement when the deal was struck.
The agreement stipulates which business travelers do not require short-distance visas. Musicians, artists and performers are excluded, which means they may need a visa to perform paid performances abroad.