DUBLIN: After a lengthy discussion and a long wait, the UK-EU Brexit trade agreement has become a reality. However, both sides reached an agreement well before end of the Brexit transition period (Dec 31). Here are the main agreements in detail:
The most important condition of the agreement is that the UK will be able to enter the world’s largest EU market without tariffs and quotas. The agreement is seen as beyond the EU’s dealings with Canada or Japan.
Both the EU and the UK will accept trustworthy business programmes. This means that UK manufacturers must meet the standards not only of their country but also of the European Union.
Doctors, nurses, architects, dentists, pharmacists, vets, engineers from the UK who come to work in EU countries will no longer be automatically recognised. They will now have to seek the approval of the member state they wish to practise in.
Freedom of movement
UK citizens will not have the freedom to work, study, start a business or stay in the European Union without a visa. A visa is required to stay more than 90 days. There is no barrier to working abroad by combining certain social security benefits such as old age pensions and healthcare. There will be no loss of existing insurance.
The UK will leave the common fisheries policy. The annual turnover of EU fishing vessels from the British Ocean is approximately €650 million. UK-flagged fleet cost €850 million.
The EU’s share will be gradually reduced by 25% over five and a half years. A quarter of the EU’s catch by value, €162.5 million a year, will be paid to the UK by the end of this period. Thereafter, the two sides will hold annual discussions and reach an agreement.
The EU vessels that fish six to 12 nautical miles off the British coast may continue during the transition. But after that the access should be discussed on an annual basis. Three months’ notice must be given before closing access. Should access be denied to either side, the other may seek compensation or apply tariffs in a proportionate way.
The UK will impose its own subsidy conditions. The new domestic enforcement body can determine whether state assistance has distorted trade after the grant has been issued. This is considered a major concession to the European Union. The UK subsidy system will ensure that key principles of the agreement are respected. The agreement also allows both parties to take remedial action if there is evidence that the domestic enforcement body has failed to uphold these principles.
Standards or level playing field
Both sides have agreed on a minimum level of environmental, social and labour standards. The level playing field will be reviewed after four years to make sure it is working. This would allow the EU to unilaterally apply tariffs on UK goods in the event of deviating standards over time. If one party upgrades the rulebook, it must be followed by the other party or face consequences.
There will be a special provision for review and re-balancing of the contract. This will enable both parties to review the financial status of the agreement. If both parties are reluctant to agree to the new standards, the tariff may be subject to the approval of an independent arbitration panel.
There will be provision for determining which products are made in the UK. EU materials and processing will be treated as British input. The finished products can be exported to the European market. Under the agreement, tariffs can only be levied on more than 40% of the pre-completed value of a product from the UK or non-EU countries such as Japan.
If any of the parties feel that the terms of the trade are being distorted, action may be taken after consultation. An arbitration panel can meet and decide on the matter within 30 days. If the proceedings are later deemed to be erroneous or excessive, the aggrieved party may take remedial action. The UK-EU Governance Committee will have subcommittees to implement and enforce the agreement.
The UK will remain as a paying associate member of the European Union’s Horizon Europe programme for seven years. It will continue in Copernicus and Euratom.
The UK university was excluded from the exchange program following the European Union’s requirement to remain on a seven – year payment plan to become an associate member. But the Irish government has confirmed that students from Northern Ireland can continue to enter Erasmus. Citizens of Northern Ireland will also receive a plan to replace the European health insurance card (EHIC) funded by the Irish Government.
Security and law enforcement
Cross-border police investigations and law enforcement may continue as long as the UK remains on major exchange programs. But the UK will not be part of the European arrest warrant system. Nor will the UK be a full member of Europol or Eurojust. The UK will remain on the Schengen Information System (SIS II), an automated database that shares police alerts about stolen and missing persons. There will also be agreements for the joint use of passenger name records in the aviation and maritime sectors. It provides live data on passenger movements. The fight against terrorism, the Prüm database of fingerprints, DNA and car number plates of suspects will all be handed over.
UK broadcasters will not be able to pan their European services unless a part of their business is transferred to an EU member state.
Travel into the EU for paid work
There will also be an agreement to travel to the European Union for work. Staffs who are managers and specialists in the European Union regarding business can stay there for up to three years and trainees for up to one year.
Those in the short-term business need a work permit. This permit can be used to stay for up to 90 days for a period of 12 months. Experts have warned that British business travellers and workers working for a limited period in the European Union could face fines if they do not obtain prior permission. In this context, it was agreed to make mutual arrangements for short-term business trips and highly skilled staff.
Passenger and cargo planes can fly and land in the European Union as before. This includes stopover flights from Heathrow and elsewhere in the UK. Hauliers in countries outside the EU are also allowed to continue driving without special permits. The decision comes as a huge relief to the logistics industry, which fears many drivers will get caught up in the problem. This is because the UK remains a member of the European Common Aviation Area.