English and Welsh voters decided over four years ago to withdraw the United Kingdom from the European Union, over the objections of their fellow U.K. citizens in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Gibraltar. But nearly half a decade later, Britain has yet to actually leave the bloc. That’s set to change as of the end of this month, regardless of whether the two sides agreed on the terms of a divorce.
Lately, it has looked like there simply wouldn’t be a properly negotiated divorce arrangement, resulting in a chaotic “no deal” Brexit scenario. However, the leaders of Europe and the United Kingdom announced today that they’ve reached an agreement on the terms of Britain’s withdrawal, just in time for Christmas.
“I want to thank President von der Leyen of the European Commission and our brilliant negotiators led by Lord Frost and Michel Barnier, on the EU side Stephanie Rousseau as well as Oliver Lewis, Tim Barrow, Lindsay Appleby and many others. Their work will be available for scrutiny, followed by a parliamentary vote I hope on December 30th,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“We have, finally, found an agreement,” said a relieved von der Leyen, who heads the Commission. “It was a long and winding road. But we have got a good deal to show for it. It is fair and balanced. And it is the right and responsible thing to do for both sides. The negotiations were very tough. But with so much at stake, for so many, this was a deal worth fighting for.”
Here are a few early takes on the deal:
“The Brexit deal itself is nothing but thin gruel. It will make it much harder for Britain to sell services to EU countries, where we were once advantaged. Britons will lose their right to freely travel, work and settle in other European countries. While there will be no tariffs or restrictions on the quantity of goods that can be sold, British exports will for the first time in decades face checks on their origins and compliance with EU regulations.”
— Tom Kibasi for The Guardian (At long last we have a Brexit deal – and it’s as bad as you thought)
“The European Union emerges from fraught negotiations with Britain over its exit from the bloc with a sense of satisfaction — that it has maintained its unity and its core principles, especially the integrity of the single market of now four hundred and fifty million consumers that is the foundation of its influence. And it is now looking ahead to its life without Britain.”
— Steven Erlanger for The New York Times (For the European Union, It’s a Pretty Good Deal)
“In the coming days, without doubt, there will be a rhetorical bidding war over which side has given more ground, ‘lost’ or ‘won’.
There will have been compromises on both sides. But both the UK and the EU have put pragmatism over firm principle, and agreed an historic accord that will affect so many aspects of how we live.”
— Laura Kuenssberg for the BBC (Johnson gets the deal both sides wanted to achieve)
“Just days ago, as the December 31st deadline loomed, Johnson laughed freely at the prospect of crashing out of Europe without any deal at all. It would be ‘more than satisfactory,’ he said, promising Britain would ‘prosper mightily’. But the UK is in its deepest recession since records began. And behind the scenes, the Prime Minister was issuing quite different orders to his negotiators. Britain now badly needed a deal.”
— Linton Besser, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (Boris Johnson yields to reality, but Brexit will come back to haunt Britain)
The text of the agreement has not yet been published. When it is, there will be an opportunity people everywhere to engage in a deeper analysis of its terms.