The story of old friends and new beginnings

Jan 13, 2020

After a runaway election for the Conservatives in December, and a successful Brexit vote last week, it looks like the United Kingdom will be leaving the European Union on 31 January,  but what does that mean for an EU-UK trade deal?

By Akriti Gupta

With British MPs having given their final backing to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal on 9 January 2020, the UK is now set to leave the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020 with a deal in place. This approval comes following a mercurial, three-year-long debate over the outcome of the UK’s decision to exit the EU.  

The House of Commons voted 330 to 231 in favour of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement Bill, giving it three weeks to pass through the House of Lords and receive Royal Assent to meet the Brexit deadline. The latest vote gives approval to the 11-month transition period starting at 11PM (GMT) on 31 January 2020, after which the UK will cease to be an EU member state but will continue to follow its rules and contribute to its budget.

Moving forward 

As UK Brexit Minister Stephen Barclay emphatically concluded the vote (“It is time to get Brexit done, this bill does so.”), the focus turned to upcoming talks on establishing a long-term UK-EU trade deal. Mr Johnson is confident that the transition period is a sufficient amount of time to negotiate a viable trade deal, but his EU counterparts are less optimistic about reaching an agreement by 31 December 2020. However, while the new EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen stresses the necessity to uphold the integrity of the European Union, she also highlights the importance of establishing a partnership “beyond trade” with the UK. Even though there is much to be said about the future of the UK-EU trade partnership, areas such as climate action, data protection, fisheries, energy, transport, financial services, and security are key areas that have yet to be touched upon.   

As we look forward to the UK navigating the unchartered waters of negotiating a viable trade agreement with the EU, the clock continues to tick. In the words of Ms Von der Leyen, the story of old friends and new beginnings continues.