The beginning of a new EU-UK Partnership
The mood in Europe is upbeat – if a little apprehensive on how things are going to work in practice. All in all, it is fair to say that Brussels is extremely happy to have concluded the TCA: “It was worth fighting for (this deal) because we now have a fair and balanced agreement with the UK” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced. Much of the uncertain rhetoric has now made way for forward looking statements although there is still quite a lot of ‘spin’ as to who got the better deal.
Even though the TCA does not replicate the rights and benefits of being a Member State of the EU, the “brand new partnership” ensures Britain and the 27 Member States may continue to trade in goods without tariffs or quotas after Brexit is completed on January 1. It is especially important for the EU since the 27 EU countries all export to the UK. The TCA, covers not just trade in goods and services but also a broad range of other key areas such as investment, competition, State aid, tax transparency, air and road transport, energy and sustainability, fisheries, data protection, and social security coordination.
The mood music in Brussels - European unity triumphs
Alongside difficult technical talks, the spat about the Northern Ireland Protocol did raise internal tensions and fuelled mistrust between both parties. It took the intervention of Ursula von der Leyen and Boris Johnson personally to resolve this issue and secure a deal which benefits both sides whilst respecting each other’s all important “sovereignty”. In the end, European unity, and the steadfastness among the 27 EU Member States with widely varying interests, was a huge factor in achieving the TCA. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are confident that this European unity will allow all EU Member States to firmly back the TCA.
Despite the UK’s departure being a “big change”, chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier in particular has adopted a conciliatory tone in the media. Like him, many in Brussels sincerely believe that with Brexit complete, the UK’s Euroscepticism will be finally banished and a rebuilding of very close ties can (re)commence.