Britain, European Union agree a Brexit trade deal

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The U.K. and the EU announced Thursday they have agreed a trade deal that will avoid tariffs when Britain exits the Brexit transition period at the end of the year.

“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 and it is a balanced deal,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a news conference.

A U.K. government spokesperson said, “Deal is done … Everything that the British public was promised during the 2016 referendum and in the general election last year is delivered by this deal.”

Negotiators had been under huge pressure because of fears there wouldn’t be enough time to turn any agreement into law before the end of the transition period on December 31, meaning the two sides could end up trading on unfavorable World Trade Organization terms.

The deal will be a boost to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU leaders, all of whom were anxious not to be blamed if the U.K. crashed out without some kind of agreement.

“Negotiations were difficult … but it was such a wide-reaching agreement … that it was worth fighting for it,” von der Leyen said.

“Competition in our single market will be fair and remain so. The EU rules and standards will be respected. We have effective tools to react if fair competition is distorted and impacts our trade.”

The U.K. government spokesperson said, “This agreement allows the beginning of a new relationship between the UK and the EU. One that we have always wanted – a thriving trading and economic relationship between a sovereign UK and our European partners and friends.”

“For the British people the deal delivers the objectives of the 2016 referendum and the 2019 election, and it will bring significant benefits for both the UK and the EU,” the spokesperson added.

The trade deal must now be approved by each of the 27 EU member countries, the European Parliament and the U.K. parliament. Given time is so tight, the EU is expected to let the agreement come into force provisionally on January 1, with the European Parliament then giving its approval retroactively early next year.

This article has been updated.

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