LONDON – The United Kingdom and European Union announced a last-minute agreement to a post-Brexit trade deal on Thursday, a sign the end of a four-year drama-filled saga that showed a deep cultural divide in British politics.
The news of a deal was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The U.K. is now set to leave the European single market and customs unions on Jan. 1.
“I’m very pleased to tell you this afternoon that we have completed our biggest trade deal yet,” Johnson said. “This deal achieves something that the people of this country instinctively knew was doable but which they were told was impossible. We’ve taken back control of our laws and our destiny.”
The news comes Four-and-a-half years following a referendum in favor of the country leaving the EU. The deal covers not only trade in goods and services, but transport, energy, fisheries, data protection, and social security.
“This will create barriers to trade in goods and services and to cross-border mobility and exchanges that do not exist today — in both directions” said the European Union, in a statement.
The deal comes just days before the 31 December deadline, after which the U.K. would have left E.U. rules without an agreement at all.
The agreement is what many experts are calling a “hard Brexit” free trade agreement, meaning it focuses mostly on quotas and tariffs but will likely not avoid regulatory checks on goods at the border, something that will likely mean price rises and even shortages.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, the E.U.’s executive branch said: “It was a long and winding road but we have got a good deal to show for it.”
Johnson made one thing clear, the U.K. will still remain attached to Europe.
“Although we have left the European Union, this country will remain culturally, emotionally, historically, strategically, geographically attached to Europe,” he said.