A Brexit deal has been done - this is what happens next

The deal must be put to a vote before the UK and EU Parliaments. Credit: PA

The UK and European Union have agreed a post-Brexit trade deal, just a week before the end of the 11-month Brexit transition period during which the UK followed EU rules and regulation while it sought a deal.

But there's a few more steps that have to happen before the deal can take effect.

What happens next in the UK?

The trade deal has to be ratified by the UK Parliament.

Parliament broke up for Christmas on 17 December, so it will need to be recalled so MPs can consider and vote on the deal. Speaking on Thursday after announcing the deal, Boris Johnson said he hoped there would be a parliamentary vote on the deal on December 30.With the prime minister’s majority in the Commons, it is expected to gain approval, especially with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer taking the view that any deal is better than no deal.

The deal needs to be approved by 31 December, which is when the Brexit transition period ends.

With the trade agreement thought to be around 2,000 pages long, MPs won't have long to go through all the detail before voting on it.

According to the UK Parliament website, there are four criteria that must be met for the agreement to become law:

  • a government statement that political agreement has been reached;

  • the laying of the negotiated treaty before Parliament;

  • approval of the treaty by the Commons

  • the absence of a Lords resolution objecting to the treaty within 14 sitting days, or a Ministerial statement providing that the treaty should nevertheless be ratified.

Ahead of the agreement being reached, Boris Johnson had put in place provisions for MPs to be recalled to Westminster with 48 hours notice to debate and decide on a deal.

However, hardline Tory Brexiteers may stage a symbolic rebellion if they decide the UK has given too much ground.

What about Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will have no say on the deal. Credit: PA

The devolved administrations will not have a say on the agreement prior ratification. They will, however, be expected to take responsibility for the implementation of international obligations. What happens in the EU? The deal must also be ratified by the European Parliament, which is potentially a more complex process. Ratifying a treaty can take weeks, months and even years in the EU, given there are 27 member states.

The European Parliament has said it does not have time to discuss and vote on ratifying such an agreement before the transition period expires on December 31.

This means the deal will be “provisionally applied” until MEPs get to vote on it in January.

Each remaining EU member state also has to ratify the agreement and any one of them could veto it.

What does the deal mean?

The agreement dictates the nature of the relationship between the UK and the EU when it comes to trade and security.

Note that this is not the same as the Withdrawal Agreement, which was the bill that enshrined the UK’s formal exit from the EU as of February 1, 2020.

What the Withdrawal Agreement also did was provide a transition period in which both parties would have time to negotiate a deal.

Boris Johnson signing the Withdrawal Agreement for the UK to leave the EU on January 31st Credit: Andrew Parsons/No10 Downing Street/PA

Virtually nothing practically changed for businesses or the public during the transition period, but that all changes once it expires on December 31 this year.

At first, the deal was supposed to be agreed by the middle of October but the deadline was pushed back.

The deal may be welcome news to those who feared a no-deal scenario, which leaked government papers suggest could have had a devastating impact.

It means the UK does not leave the Brexit transition period on World Trade Organisation terms, which would have meant the imposition of tariffs on imports and exports with the EU.