It is incredibly welcome that the UK Government has reached a trade deal with the EU and that Parliament has voted for it. This provides certainty for people and businesses when they need it most. Ever since the result of the referendum was announced, I have been clear that it should be respected but also that leaving the EU with a deal was by far the best outcome.
January 1st, 2021 will mark the start of our new relationship with the EU. They will remain our closest and largest trading partners and we will continue to cooperate in a number of areas, including security. However, the UK will be a fully sovereign nation, with political and economic independence, able to strike trade deals with new markets around the world and determine its own policy priorities.
Any negotiation requires ‘give and take’ from the parties involved. However, throughout the negotiations the UK has been clear that we will have control of our laws, money, borders and that we will be an independent coastal state. We need to empower businesses and assist areas of the country like former fishing communities to once again thrive.
We will be an independent country, with our sovereign Parliament in full control of the laws that we live by. There is no role for the European Court of Justice and no requirements for the UK to continue to follow EU law. However, the deal clarifies our commitment to maintaining high labour, environment and climate standards, without giving the EU any say over our rules. It is worth noting that in many of these areas, the UK already has higher standards than those of the EU, the so called level playing field was never so level in reality. Simply, if you want to trade, you abide by the rules and standards of the country you are trading with, wherever they are in the world. There is nothing to say however, your standards can’t be higher.
It is also the first free trade agreement based on zero tariffs and zero quotas that the EU has ever agreed. Businesses will be able to trade smoothly, and people will be able to continue to buy goods from Europe tariff-free. Furthermore, the agreement provides for continued market access across a broad scope of key service sectors, including professional and business services. This market access will support new and continued investment between businesses. It also means that business travellers will be able to easily move between the EU and the UK for short term visits. There is undoubtedly more work in the area of financial services which the government has committed to working on at pace.
We will be able to introduce our own modern subsidy system so that we can better support businesses to grow and thrive. This new system will operate in a way that best suits the interests of UK industries, outside the EU State Aid regime.
The agreement supports our primary objective of prioritising the safety and security of the UK’s citizens. It offers co-operation on law enforcement, ensuring we continue to effectively tackle serious organised crime and counter terrorism, protecting the public, and bringing criminals to justice. It also provides a good base for future cooperation between the UK and EU on emerging security challenges, such as cyber and health security, including continuing to work together on tackling the spread of Covid-19.
Given the importance of the agricultural sector to our area, including food production, I am pleased this deal gives our food producers the certainty they need to continue to trade with Europe. Again, it avoids the imposition of tariffs and quotas, while allowing us to explore new export opportunities around the world. The UK Government will also be free to support producers at home and introduce Environmental Land Management, supporting our farmers in securing our food supply and contributing to the aims of the 25 Year Environment Plan.
The agreement allows the UK and the EU to cooperate on avoiding unnecessary SPS barriers to trade in agri-foods goods. Over time, this will help to reduce the burden on businesses from border controls and certification requirements. Further, the UK and EU will be able to work closely together to manage the risks to animal, public and plant health. This will include data-sharing and robust targeted measures to manage disease outbreaks. That said, the agreement has secured the UK’s full autonomy over our public, plant and animal health regime, tailoring it to our unique circumstances. Ensuring we support many of the new and world-leading techniques in farming and plant breeding will be of huge importance to support this industry as we move forward.
UK sovereignty over our fishing waters is also recognised in the agreement and it puts us in a position to rebuild our fishing fleet and increase quotas, overturning the inequity that British fishermen have faced for over four decades. By the end of the five-year transition we will have full control of our waters and the amount of fish available to UK fishermen will have risen from half to two-thirds.
The UK’s participation in certain EU programmes is also provided for, furthering our commitment to making the UK a science and research superpower. This deal will fulfil our manifesto commitment to participate in the Horizon Europe programme, but also the Euratom Research and Training programme, and the space programme, Copernicus. Many people have flagged the Erasmus programme as a loss to UK students we were net contributors into this scheme with many more students coming to this country due to our language. We have launched a £100 million scheme ‘The Turing Programme’ which is a global scheme allowing our students and those from other countries access to different academic institutions and cultural experiences. This scheme will also target Universities to make sure that young people from more disadvantaged backgrounds get assistance to participate.
Importantly, the agreement delivers on making our daily lives easier. It includes arrangements for airlines and hauliers that provides them with certainty, and gives people the ability to travel to and from the EU easily for work and holidays; a social security agreement that has practical benefits for UK citizens including accessing healthcare when travelling in the EU; and agreements on energy which will benefit consumers by helping to keep prices down. Finally, the deal delivers for the entire UK, protecting the integrity of our internal market and Northern Ireland’s place within it.
Our negotiating team has done an extraordinary job. We have agreed the biggest trade and cooperation deal in the world, on a huge range of issues relevant to everyone in our country, delivered in hugely challenging conditions.
By seizing the new freedoms and opportunities that have been secured, and with a focus on beating the pandemic and rebuilding the economy, we will ensure our country truly has a bright future with a global outlook.