Video report by ITV News Correspondent Juliet Bremner
It finally happened - the UK and the EU struck a post-Brexit trade deal at the eleventh hour.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the deal will help protect jobs and provide certainty to businesses, as he hailed the accomplishment.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the deal is "fair" and "balanced" and "it is the right and responsible thing to do for both sides.”
But how have politicians, the leaders of the nations and the people who are most affected by the deal reacted?
Politicians Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said Labour will "accept and vote for” the post-Brexit deal when it reaches Parliament, but he said a better deal could have been negotiated. Sir Keir said: “At a moment of such national significance, it is just not credible for Labour to be on the sidelines. “That is why I can say today that when this deal comes before Parliament, Labour will accept it and vote for it. “But let me be absolutely clear – and say directly to the Government – up against no deal, we accept this deal, but the consequences of it are yours.”
While Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said “a deal is better than no deal”, but she added “it beggars belief” Scotland will be “forced out of the EU single market and customs union” during a pandemic and economic recession. First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford agreed and said "this is not the deal we were promised...it is better that we have a deal that we can build on for the future." But he added there will still be problems ahead such as delays at ports and trade barriers which are not covered. And in Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster said the Stormont Executive will examine details of the trade, as well as others issues such as security, "where agreement will be particularly important from the Northern Ireland viewpoint”.
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “Thank you @MichelBarnier for your tenacity and commitment to defending the interests of Europeans and their unity.
“Thanks to you and @vonderleyen European solidarity has shown its strength.”
Meanwhile, two former prime minister whose premierships ended because of Brexit welcomed the completion of the deal. David Cameron and Theresa May congratulated the negotiating teams on helping to end the year with some “positive news”. Mr Cameron, who called the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, tweeted: “It’s good to end a difficult year with some positive news.” Mrs May added: “Very welcome news that the UK & EU have reached agreement on the terms of a deal – one that provides confidence to business and helps keep trade flowing. “Looking forward to seeing the detail in the coming days.”
Nigel Farage, who is long advocated for Brexit, called the deal a "victory" and “a tribute to the ordinary men and women who stood up against the Westminster establishment — and won.” He added: “There is no going back.” Farmers Farmers’ groups have spoken of their relief after a trade deal was struck between the UK and the European Union but warned new rules will still cause disruption to trade. More than 60% of the UK’s agricultural food and drink production – worth £14.5 billion to economy – is exported to the EU, making it the largest trading partner for British farmers. The National Farmers Union (NFU) had warned its members could lose access to the EU “overnight” at the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 in the event of no deal. NFU president Minette Batters described the Christmas Eve agreement as “very positive news for British agriculture”.
“The EU is our largest trading partner and we have been clear throughout negotiations that maintaining tariff-free access to the EU market is absolutely crucial for our food and farming industry, not only for farmers’ businesses and livelihoods, but for our ability to continue to provide a secure supply of quality, home-grown food for the nation,” she said. “It does remain the case, though, that our relationship with the EU will experience a fundamental change at the end of the transition period on January 1 2021 and we do anticipate that there will still be disruption to trade at the border. “New checks, paperwork and requirements on traders will add costs and complexity. “It is vital government does all it can now to prioritise exports of our high quality, perishable agricultural products to make sure that these products are not left languishing in queues at the border when the changes take effect.” Fishing Prime Minister Boris Johnson has sacrificed the fishing industry in a drive to secure a trade deal with the EU, fishing organisations have said. Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, said there will be “frustration and anger” across the industry about the outcome of the negotiations. Sporting a fish-themed tie, Mr Johnson told the Government press conference: “For the first time since 1973 we will be an independent coastal state with full control of our waters.” But Mr Deas told the PA news agency: “In the end it was clear that Boris Johnson wanted an overall trade deal and was willing to sacrifice fishing.”
He said: “The broad feeling is that the UK has made significant concessions on fish in order to secure a trade deal. “I think the industry will be extremely disappointed. “We have secured increases in quota from the EU but they don’t come anywhere close to what our entitlement is in international law. “So I think there will be frustration and anger across the industry about that.” Mr Deas said he thought the failure to secure a 12-mile exclusion zone to protect inshore fisheries for at least five years is “going to be particularly contentious”.
Business leaders welcomed the trade deal with the EU, saying it had come as a “huge relief”, despite being so late in the day. Tony Danker, CBI director general, said: ”Firms will immediately study the details, when they can, to understand the implications for their companies, customers and clients but immediate guidance from government is required across all sectors. “Above all, we need urgent confirmation of grace periods to smooth the cliff edge on everything from data to rules of origin and we need to ensure we keep goods moving across borders.” He said the UK has a bright future outside the EU following the deal, adding: “This will come as a huge relief to British business at a time when resilience is at an all-time low. But coming so late in the day it is vital that both sides take instant steps to keep trade moving and services flowing while firms adjust. And with a deal secured we can begin our new chapter on firmer ground.”
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “After years of campaigning for zero-tariff trade, we welcome the announcement of a free-trade agreement between the UK and EU. “Given that four-fifths of UK food imports come from the EU, today’s announcement should afford households around the UK a collective sigh of relief. "
Jobs Union leaders warned the post-Brexit trade deal agreed between the UK and European Union would put workers’ rights on the line and will not protect jobs. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the deal was better than nothing, “but not by much”. She said: “As we come out of the pandemic, we’re facing a crunch point for jobs and living standards. This deal is on the prime minister’s head – it’s his responsibility to make sure working families don’t end up worse off. “Now the prime minister must make good on his promise to level up Britain. And he needs to act fast.
“There can be no more pointing the finger at the EU. Government must deliver an industrial strategy for decent work, with investment in jobs and green industries in parts of the country that need it most.” Ms O’Grady said ministers must now urgently build on the deal to overcome barriers to trade and higher production costs she warned many sectors will face. She added: “We will not accept a race to the bottom on rights. The deal won’t protect jobs and puts hard-won workers’ rights on the line.” Tourism The travel and tourism sector “will be breathing a sigh of relief” after the UK Government agreed a trade deal with the EU, an industry body has said. The London-based World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) welcomed the news of the agreement “at the 11th hour”.
Gloria Guevara, WTTC president and CEO, continued: “It is good news for a sector which has been crippled by the Covid-19 pandemic and which feared the consequences of a no-deal Brexit. “Thankfully this worrying outcome has been avoided and now the sector can look ahead to 2021 with more confidence. “But British holidaymakers could face higher health costs and added red tape. The devil will be in the detail of the deal – and only time will tell what the true consequences are for travellers.” Hauliers Hauliers have cautiously welcomed the trade deal between the UK and EU but warned drivers needed time to adapt to changes at the French border. From January 1, lorry drivers will face customs checks when entering France, while they will also require a permit to access channel crossings in Kent as part of plans to stop the county’s roads being clogged up by potential delays. The Road Haulage Association said it feared its members will be hit by “vast amounts of new paperwork” and called on the Government to grant a six-month implementation period from the start of 2021 to allow drivers to get used to the new system.