BORIS Johnson hailed the “immense moment” Britain has taken back control of our destiny today as he finally sealed a Brexit deal with the EU.
The PM gave the nation an early Christmas present this afternoon as he secured a historic agreement which finally sees the UK take back control from the EU and ends four years of bitter wrangling.
The PM vowed it was now up to Britain “as a newly and truly independent nation to realise the immensity of this moment and to make the most of it” as he revealed a pact to trade freely with Brussels from next year.
Four years, five months and 29 days after the British people voted to leave the EU, the PM declared we would finally be able to set our own rules from January 1 and strike out on our own – after 40 years shackled to Brussels.
He told the nation at a momentous press conference this afternoon Brits were “right to take back control” and his deal delivered what they voted for back in 2016.
He vowed: “We have taken back control of laws and our destiny.
“We have taken back control of every jot and tittle of our regulation.
Striking a respectful tone, he stressed his deal would finally provide certainty for the police, business, security services and everyone else in the EU and UK alike.
And he promised this deal will benefit the whole of Europe, too.
In a promise to Brussels he added: “This deal means a new certainty. We will be your friend, your ally, your supporter, and indeed, never let it be forgotten, your number one market.”
He described it as a “jumbo Canada style free trade deal” which resolves deeply routed discomfort with the European Union.
“I think we were told we couldn’t have our cake and eat it,” he quipped.
“It’s what the country needs at this time, and the right way forward for the UK.”
He vowed his deal would achieve something which the people “was told was impossible”.
And the Government also revealed there would be a four-year break clause in the deal – meaning there would be the ability for either side to break free in 2025 if they didn’t think it was working.
The PM poked gentle fun at the EU with a fish-print tie after talks went down to the wire over fisheries.
The issue was one of the last sticking points between negotiators – and looked set to de-rail a deal just days ago.
The PM tweeted a picture of himself smiling with both thumbs lifted in the air ahead of his press conference.
“The deal is done,” he wrote.
It came as:
- MPs will vote on the deal on December 30 after the government ordered Parliament to be recalled
- The pound soared against the dollar after a deal was done
- Boris wrote to MPs to reassure them over the new deal
- But already Brexiteers were grumbling about not having enough time to analyse the deal when it comes back to MPs
- MPs vowed to look at the details before signing up to back the deal
- Sir Keir Starmer vowed that Labour would back the deal – meaning it’s likely to sail through the Commons
- Michel Barnier will set out the details of the deal to EU ambassadors on Christmas morning
- An RAF plane was this afternoon heading to Brussels from Northolt to pick up David Frost and the British team to bring them home for Christmas
- The PM announced a new Turing programme would replace the study abroad Erasmus scheme
- Here’s what happens next now a deal is done
Downing Street today promised that “everything promised in the 2016 referendum was now delivered – and we would finally take back control of our money, borders, laws, fishing waters and trade”.
They added: “The deal is fantastic news for families and businesses in every part of the UK. We have signed the first free trade agreement based on zero tariffs and zero quotas that has ever been achieved with the EU
“The deal is the biggest bilateral trade deal signed by either side, covering trade worth £668bn in 2019.”
The record-breaking accord was forged in less than a year- after the withdrawal deal was signed off in January – and will allow free trade to continue without tariffs or quotas in a major win for Britain.
It means Britain will avoid a No Deal exit and trade will continue to flow; protecting jobs and allowing Brits to still enjoy holidays and low food prices.
The UK will finally cut ties with the bloc’s red tape, rules and meddlesome EU judges as promised in the historic 2016 referendum 1,645 days ago, while allowing business and trade to flourish around the globe.
And in a major concession, Brussels has dropped demands for powers to hit British goods with tariffs if we shut EU boats out of our waters in future.
Boris told The Sun today too that he was “absolutely confident this is a deal that protects our police co-operation, protects our ability to catch criminals and to share intelligence across the European continent in the way that we have done for many years.”
This afternoon EU chief Ursula Von der Leyen used her press conference to mock Britain – and said the only real sovereignty was achieved through working together rather than going it alone.
In snide comments just minutes after the deal, she said: “It’s 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.”
Negotiators including chief David Frost worked overnight and into the afternoon today to iron out minor details in the 2,000 page legal text after the crucial fishing deadlock was broken.
He said today: “Our country begins a new journey as a fully independent country once again on 1 January. Our future and our prosperity are in our hands. I am confident we will thrive and succeed.”
It was suggested that some of the final wrangling was over specific species of fish allowed to be caught.
Already MPs came in to praise the PM for securing the deal defying the odds.
Trade Secretary Liz Truss tweeted: “Great that we have secured a trade deal with the EU. Congrats to @DavidGHFrost and the UK team.
“We will have a strong trading relationship with the EU and deepen our trade with partners across the world through our independent trade policy.”
Andy Street, the Conservative mayor of the West Midlands, said: “Absolutely thrilled the Government has achieved a deal with the EU.
“This is critical to the future of thousands of WM jobs and businesses.
“A wonderful early Christmas present.”
Even former remainer Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the referendum on leaving the European Union, tweeted: “It’s good to end a difficult year with some positive news.
“Trade deal is very welcome – and a vital step in building a new relationship with the EU as friends, neighbours and partners.
“Many congratulations to the UK negotiating team,” he added.
Business leaders welcomed the trade deal with the EU, saying it had come as a “huge relief”, despite being so late in the day.
Sir Keir Starmer announced this evening that his party will back the trade deal, saying: “Labour will accept it and vote for it”.
He said it was a choice between No Deal and this deal – and his party wouldn’t back the latter.
“We have to make a success of this, we have to make it work,” he said begrudgingly.
“This deal is in the national interest.”
But remainers poured cold water on the deal and claimed it would still leave Britain worse off.
In a scathing response, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon snapped: “It beggars belief that in the midst of a pandemic and economic recession Scotland has been forced out of the EU single market and customs union with all the damage to jobs that will bring.”
She claimed ” major promises made by the UK Government on fisheries have been broken and the extent of these broken promises will become apparent to all very soon.”
And added: “This is a far harder Brexit than could have been imagined when the EU referendum took place, damaging and disrupting this nation’s economy and society at the worst possible time.”
The deal is a huge victory for the PM – who endured relentless criticism that he would fail to land an agreement – after his strategy of threatening to walk away without a deal saw the EU blink first.
The PM’s “get Brexit done” at last December’s Election gifted him a Tory landslide.
Rejecting huge pressure from all sides to drag the talks out for another year because of the Covid crisis, the Prime Minister stood firm and sealed the deal just a week before the 31 December deadline – dubbed New Year’s Leave.
The news of a deal, which will define our relationship with the EU for years to come, is also a welcome boost after the mounting coronavirus crisis.
Yesterday saw 6million more Brits plunged into Tier 4 – amid a gloomy Christmas for the nation.
The deal is major win for Britain and a personal success for Mr Johnson at the end of a tricky year navigating a global pandemic.
His vow to “get Brexit done” at last December’s general election gifted him a Tory landslide, but discussions hit the buffers repeatedly over fish, sticking to EU rules, and governance of the deal in future.
Commons and Lords speakers announced this evening that Parliament will be recalled on 30 December at 9.30am – with hopes to get it all done in a single day.
MPs will be able to vote and speak in the debate from home if they wish.
But already Brexiteers were grumbling over not having enough time to look over the deal before they are asked to rubber stamp it.
Former Brexit Secretary David Davis told LBC this morning: “I don’t really like the idea that Parliament will have to agree a 2,000-page deal in one day.”
Tory MP Craig Tracey added: “On the face of it, the looks to be ticking the major Brexit boxes but need to see the detail – Parliament will vote on it on 30th so plenty of time to go through.”
And Nigel Farage warned the UK may “find ourselves far too closely aligned to EU rules in the years to come”.
He is concerned that Britain can’t step out line without having extra punishments tacked on.
He added that he hoped “this is the beginning of the end of the European Union.”
Mr Farage told talkRADIO: “Hey, is [the deal] better than where we were five years ago? Yes, it is. Is it good enough to allow us to become Singapore, the really dynamic booming economy? No.”
But in the bigger picture, this was a “very very big day and a big step forward.”
Mr Johnson had agreed for Brussels to hand back a quarter of its fish quota – meaning Britain will fish just over 66 per cent of UK waters.
And there will be a five-and-a-half-year transition phase, down from the EU’s ask of a decade.
France crowed on Wednesday that the EU had won “huge concessions” from Britain – but Boris said it would mean we finally had control of our own waters.
The PM explained today: “For the first time since 1973, we will be an independent coastal state with full control of our waters.
“With the UK’s share of fish in our waters rising substantially, from roughly half today, to closer to 2/3 in five and a half years’ time after which there is no theoretical limit beyond those placed by science or conservation on the quantity of our own fish that we can fish in our waters.”
A £100m programme will be set up to modernise their fleets and the fish processing industry.
What does a Brexit deal mean for me?
- Getting a deal means goods can continue to move tariff free between the EU and UK after we break free of Brussels’ rules
- Britain will finally control its own fishing waters and be able to set its own laws
- But Britain will choose not to reduce some of its rules and laws in certain areas – or may risk being slapped with charges
- Brits will have to make sure they have six months left on their passport once we leave
- And they will be able to travel visa free for 90 days – but after that will need to apply for one
- It’s unclear what will happen to the European Health Insurance card – but Brits who need ongoing medical treatment will be able to get it for at least a year
- People must apply for a pet passport in advance
- And anyone driving in Europe needs to get a new license, too
- Unlimited EU migration will end – and a new points based system will come in from January, meaning freedom of movement will end
- The UK will leave the single market and customs union – but have some access for some goods
- But there will be an increase in bureaucracy as a result of leaving the EU’s trading regime.
MPs will be dragged back to the Commons to sign it off next week.
The deal will shortly be provisionally approved by member states.
EU27 ministers and diplomats on the Council can decides whether to provisionally apply a deal or not – and it can be adopted by written procedure rather than an in-person vote.
MEPs can then vote on final ratification early next month.
Boris Johnson’s Brexit announcement in full
It is four and a half years since the British people voted to take back control of their money, their borders, their laws, and their waters and to leave the European Union
And earlier this year we fulfilled that promise and we left on Jan 31 with that oven-ready deal
Since that time we have been getting on with our agenda
Enacting the points based immigration system that you voted for and that will come into force on Jan 1
And doing free trade deals with 58 countries around the world
And preparing the new relationship with the EU
And there have been plenty of people who have told us that the challenges of the Covid pandemic have made this work impossible
And that we should extend the transition period
And incur yet more delay
And I rejected that approach precisely because beating Covid is our number one national priority and I wanted to end any extra uncertainty and to give this country the best possible chance of bouncing back strongly next year.
And so I am very pleased that this afternoon that
we have completed the biggest trade deal yet, worth £660 billion
A comprehensive Canada style free trade deal between the UK and the EU, a deal that will protect jobs across this country
A deal that will allow UK goods and components to be sold without tariffs and without quotas in the EU market
A deal which will if anything should allow our companies and our exporters to do even more business with our European friends
And yet which achieves something that the people of this country instinctively knew was doable
But which they were told was impossible
We have taken back control of 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 Jan 1 we are outside the customs union, and outside the single market
British laws will be made solely by the British Parliament
Interpreted by UK judges sitting in UK courts
And the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will come to an end
We will be able to set our own standards, to innovate in the way that we want, to originate new frameworks for the sectors in which this country leads the world, from biosciences to financial services, artificial intelligence and beyond
We will be able to decide how and where we are going to stimulate new jobs and new hope
With freeports and new green industrial zones
We will be able to cherish our landscape and our environment in the way we choose
Backing our farmers and backing British food and agricultural production
And for the first time since 1973
We will be an independent coastal state with full control of our waters
with the UK’s share of fish in our waters rising substantially
from roughly half today
to closer to 2/3 in five and a half years’ time after which there is no theoretical limit beyond those placed by science or conservation on the quantity of our own fish that we can fish in our waters.
And to get ready for that moment those fishing communities we will be helped with a big £100m programme to modernise their fleets and the fish processing industry
And I want to stress that although of course the arguments with our European friends and partners were sometimes fierce this is, I believe a good deal for the whole of Europe and for our friends and partners as well.
Because it will not be a bad thing for the EU to have a prosperous and dynamic and contented UK on your doorstep
And it will be a good thing – it will drive jobs and prosperity across the whole continent
And I don’t think it will be a bad thing if we in the UK do things differently, or a take a different approach to legislation
Because in so many ways our basic goals are the same
And in the context of this giant free trade zone that we’re jointly creating the stimulus of regulatory competition will I think benefit us both
And if one side believes it is somehow being unfairly undercut by the other
Then subject to independent third party arbitration and provided the measures are proportionate
We can either of us decide – as sovereign equals – to protect our consumers
But this treaty explicitly envisages that such action should only happen infrequently
and the concepts of uniformity and harmonisation are banished in favour of mutual respect and mutual recognition and free trade
and for squaring that circle, for finding the philosopher’s stone that’s enabled us to do this I want to thank President von der Leyen of the European Commission
and our brilliant negotiators led by Lord Frost and Michel Barnier, on the EU side Stephanie Rousseau
as well as Oliver Lewis, Tim Barrow, Lindsay Appleby and many others
their work will be available for scrutiny, followed by a parliamentary vote I hope on Dec 30.
This agreement, this deal above all means certainty
It means certainty for the aviation industry and the hauliers who have suffered so much in the Covid pandemic
It means certainty for the police and the border forces and the security services and all those that we rely on across Europe to keep us safe
It means certainty for our scientists who will be able to continue to work together on great collective projects
Because although we want the UK to be a science superpower, we also want to be a collaborative science superpower
And above all it means certainty for business
from financial services to our world-leading manufacturers – our car industry –
certainty for those working in high skilled jobs in firms and factories across the whole country.
Because there will be no palisade of tariffs on Jan 1
And there will be no non-tariff barriers to trade
And 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, whole and entire, England, NI, Scotland and Wales together.
And I should stress this deal was done by a huge negotiating team from every part of the UK, and it will benefit every part of our United Kingdom, helping to unite and level up across the country.
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
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 and geologically attached to Europe
not least 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.
And I say to all of you at home
At the end of this toughest of years
That our focus in the weeks ahead is of course on defeating the pandemic
And on beating coronavirus and rebuilding our economy
And delivering jobs across the country
and I am utterly confident that we can and will do it
by today we have vaccinated almost 800,000 people
and we have also today resolved a question that has bedevilled our politics for decades
and it is up to us all together
As a newly and truly independent nation
To realise the immensity of this moment and to make the most of it
Happy Christmas to you all
That’s the good news from Brussels – now for the sprouts