The United Kingdom has reached a Brexit trade deal with the European Union, seven days before it exits one of the world’s biggest trading blocs in its most significant global shift since the decline of colonialism.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “We have also today resolved a question which has bedevilled our politics for decades and it is up to us, all together, as a newly and truly independent nation to realise the immensity of this moment and to make the most of it.”
Referring to the EU, he said: “We will be your friend, your ally, your supporter and indeed, never let it be forgotten, your number one market.”
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the deal was “fair and balanced”.
“It was worth fighting for this deal. It will protect our EU interests, ensure fair competition and provide predictability for our fishing communities,” she added.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she expects Germany will be able to decide quickly whether to back the deal.
“The federal government will now closely examine the text of the agreement. But we are not starting at zero. The [European] Commission has kept the member states in the loop during the entire negotiation process,” she said.
French President Emmanuel Macron said the united and firm position taken by Europe has paid off.
“The unity and strength of Europe paid off. The agreement with the United Kingdom is essential to protect our citizens, our fishermen, our producers. We will make sure that this is the case,” Macron said on Twitter.
“Europe is advancing and can look towards the future, in a united and sovereign manner, and with strength.”
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was quick to make her case for an independent Scotland in the wake of the trade deal announcement.
“Before the spin starts, it’s worth remembering that Brexit is happening against Scotland’s will,” she said.
“And there is no deal that will ever make up for what Brexit takes away from us. It’s time to chart our own future as an independent, European nation.”
Former British Prime Minister Theresa May hailed the deal, calling it “very welcome news”.
“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,” she said on Twitter.
The First Minister of Northern Ireland Arlene Foster said she was eager to see the details of the deal, particularly regarding security in Northern Ireland.
“This is the start of a new era in the relationship between the UK and the EU and in Northern Ireland we will want to maximise the opportunities the new arrangements provide for our local economy,” said Foster.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Madrid and London will continue to negotiate an agreement on the British territory of Gibraltar on the Iberian Peninsula.
“I welcome the principle of agreement between the EU and the UK … Spain and the UK continue their dialogue to reach an agreement on Gibraltar,” Sanchez said in a tweet.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said: “In the end, there is only one thing that matters to me: ensuring the best possible protection for Belgium’s economic interests. We must protect our Belgian companies from unfair British competition.
“With this agreement, we can put the intense discussions of the past four years behind us. Now we can work on building a new, strong relationship with the United Kingdom, which has always been a historic partner for our country. It is now time to look to the future.”
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told the Newstalk Radio network: “Today we finally get certainty that there is a trade deal that I think protects Ireland in the circumstances as well as we could possibly have hoped.”
Former British Prime Minister David Cameron, under whose leadership the UK’s June 2016 referendum on membership of the EU took place, said news of the trade deal was “very welcome”.
“It’s good to end a difficult year with some positive news,” he said.
“Trade deal is very welcome – and a vital step in building a new relationship with the EU as friends, neighbours and partners. Many congratulations to the UK negotiating team.”
US State Department official
A State Department official said the United States supported the UK “in its sovereign decision to depart the EU”.
“And we look forward to continued strong relationships with both the UK and EU,” the official said, adding the US was “committed to negotiating a comprehensive free trade agreement with the UK”.
Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said in a statement the Netherlands would “carefully study the draft texts”, especially the agreements on a level playing field between the EU and the UK, the access of Dutch fishers to British waters and the governance of the agreement.
“There is very little time to do this. Before a decision is made in Brussels, the government will send an initial assessment of the agreement to parliament, so that it has an opportunity to discuss the agreement,” Blok said.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte meanwhile complimented Barnier and von der Leyen for “their tireless efforts”.
“Excellent news that an agreement on a new EU-UK partnership has been reached after tough negotiations,” he said. “This is of great importance to us all. We will now study it carefully.”
Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa said: “We warmly welcome the agreement reached with the United Kingdom on the relationship with the EU from 1 January. UK will remain, in addition to our neighbour and ally, an important partner.”
Finland’s Europe minister Tytti Tuppurainen tweeted that the news of a deal was “excellent”.
But the minister warned that it would be a more distant relationship in future.
“Businesses in particular should be ready for this weakening.”
Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said the deal was an “important step for the further development of ties between UK and EU as well as between UK and Sweden”.
British Retail Consortium
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, welcomed the Brexit trade deal.
“After years of campaigning for zero-tariff trade, we welcome the announcement of a free-trade agreement between the UK and EU. This protects consumers on both sides of the Channel from billions in import tariffs on everyday goods. 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,” she said.
UK’s Food and Drink Federation
Ian Wright, chief executive of the UK’s Food and Drink Federation, has complained about the delay in clinching the deal.
“The prime minister promised UK businesses over a year of transition in which to adapt to a new set of rules. He has delivered us four working days. Food and drink manufacturers will do their best to keep food flowing,” he said.
“However, this week’s chaos at Dover and the last gasp nature of this deal means that there will be significant disruption to supply and some prices will rise. Disappointed shoppers and consumers will rightly ask why a deal had to take so long.”
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte praised the deal as “good news”.
“Interests and rights of European businesses and citizens guaranteed. The UK will be a central partner and ally for the EU and Italy,” he said.
Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek welcomed the deal as “the end of uncertainty”.
“We are facing 2,000 pages of reading and analyses, but I believe it’s good news,” he said.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said his country welcomed the “agreed partnership on future relations”.
“This agreement will protect the interests of companies & citizens – Romania’s key objectives during these negotiations,” he said.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis congratulated von der Leyen and Barnier for their success in brokering the agreement.
“European unity remained strong through an arduous process, while EU member states’ interests were protected. Now we can build a mutually beneficial relationship between the EU and the UK,” Mitsotakis said in a tweet.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said he welcomed that “an agreement could be reached by the negotiators on the EU’s future relationship with the UK”.
“We will now carefully examine the agreement,” he said.
Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso welcomed the new deal, saying: “It should be highly valued that a broad agreement was clinched between the two.”
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said that Ankara welcomed the news of the trade deal.
“Turkey, having close relations with the UK in all fields, is also an EU candidate country and in customs union with the EU. We believe that this deal will provide Turkey with new opportunities in terms of its relations both with the EU and the UK,” the ministry said in a statement.
“In this context, the preparations for signing of a Free Trade Agreement between the UK and Turkey have also reached its final stage,” it added.