Brexit Transition in 6 Days: Overview of the ‘deal’ and immediate next steps in order to ratify it

The full text of the ‘UK-EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement’, announced yesterday – 24 December 2020 – will be published shortly.

UK ‘Service’ and ‘Finance’ industry sectors are outside the scope the agreement.

Summary information provided by the UK Government and European Commission:

  • The scope of the deal is a ‘free trade agreement ensuring no tariffs or quotas on trade in goods’.
  • Governance will be managed by a ‘UK-EU Partnership Council supported by other committees’.  This includes ‘binding enforcement and dispute settlement mechanisms covering the economic partnership’ – and ultimately an ‘independent arbitration tribunal’.
  • Either party can ‘engage in cross-sector retaliation in case of violations of the agreement’ – for example, by imposing tariffs on the other.  Cross-sector retaliation applies to ‘all areas of the economic partnership’.
  • ‘Level playing field provisions’ give both parties the right to take counter-measures – ‘subject to arbitration’ – where they believe competition is being distorted.
  • ‘25% of the EU’s current fisheries quota in UK waters will be transferred to the UK’ over ‘a period of five years’.  After this, there will be annual discussions on fisheries opportunities.  Compensation may be payable should one side decide not to grant access to its waters
  • A new ‘security partnership providing for data sharing and policing and judicial co-operation’ comes into effect.  This will be at a ‘reduced compared to previous levels of co-operation’.  The EU is empowered to suspend ‘security cooperation’ in the case that the UK ‘no longer adheres to the European Convention of Human Rights’ or its enforcement domestically.
  • UK will continue to participate in certain EU programmes: ‘Horizon Europe, Euratom Research and Training, and Copernicus’.  The UK will cease its participation in other EU programmes, such as Erasmus.

In order to ratify the Agreement such that it comes into effect at 23:00 GMT on 31 December 2020:

UK Parliament will be recalled on 30 December in order to approve the legislation.  There are legal and constitutional requirements to ratify international agreements – and they must be completed prior to its implementation. ‘Constitutional Reform and Governance Act (2010)’.

The law requires a minimum of 21 Parliament ‘sitting’ days in order to allow time for discussion and ‘scrutiny’ of the detail.  The Government will, therefore, have to find a ‘mechanism’ to bypass the law and complete the process in one day.

The EU will not be able to fully ratify the agreement by the end of the year.  The European Parliament is also required to ratify and pass legislation on international agreement – but is precluded from passing the necessary consent vote until the New Year.  It may be able to ‘provisionally’ apply the deal – provided it is agreed unanimously by each one of the 27 EU Member State governments.  This could be achieved by the 27 Heads of State meeting in a special session of the ‘Council of Europe’.

Christmas Day

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier is updating diplomats on the agreement., reached after months of fraught talks on fishing rights and business rules.

Labour said it was a “thin agreement” – but they would back it as the only alternative to no deal, meaning it should win approval.

The agreement runs to a 1,246-page document – including about 800 pages of annexes and footnotes.

The UK Government has, today – Christmas Day – published a 34 page ‘summary’ document going into the next level of detail from the highlights, above.  Many of the topics were widely anticipated – such as visa requirements for UK wishing to visit, work, or study in the EU.  Other subjects – such as the future of Gibraltar – are flagged for further discussion.

Key topics needed for businesses and citizens to plan, work and travel from 1 January 2021 will be covered in postings coming shortly.

For those that want the facts in a concise form, our ‘e-booklet’ will be updated over the coming days.  Version 5 – correct up to 23 December – is available at: Guide to trading with the EU from 1 January 2021


The UK-EU trade and co-operation agreement: the path to the deal


Picture:  Getty