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British and European Union negotiators sealed a Brexit trade deal on Thursday, just a week before the United Kingdom finally leaves the orbit of the 27-nation bloc, its biggest trading partner.
But unusually among trade deals, businesses will face more bureaucratic hurdles than they did while the UK was a member of the EU.
And many crucial issues, such as what restrictions the UK’s large financial services industry will face in selling products in Europe after the UK leaves the EU’s trading arrangements from January 1, remain unclear.
Brexit – refers to the process of the UK leaving the EU after 47 years in the economic and political alliance of European countries built from the ashes of World War II.
Following a referendum that the "vote leave" camp won by 52-48 percent in June 2016, Britain became the first country to leave the EU, a union of now nearly 450 million citizens that stretches from the Atlantic to the borders of Russia and Turkey.
Britain’s formal departure on January 31, 2020 was heralded by supporters as a recovery of political sovereignty for the country of 66 million people.
Opponents saw it as a historic setback to European integration that could cause unprecedented economic damage and risk renewed strife on the Irish border, the only land frontier between the bloc and the UK.
Since its formal departure, London has followed established rules of close-knit cooperation on everything from trade to student exchanges, but this transition phase expires at midnight on December 31.
So what does the new deal cover?
The two sides have been in complex negotiations since March to try to keep their trade in goods flowing from January 1, 2021.
The deal announced on Thursday means that this goods trade – roughly half of the $900bn of annual EU-UK commerce – will remain free of tariffs and quotas.
However, goods moving between the UK and the EU will be subject to customs and other controls and extra paperwork is expected to cause extensive disruptions.
The deal was negotiated on top of a formal Withdrawal Agreement reached last year, which ensured that extensive controls would not be put back on the sensitive border between EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.
The third key element of the deal is dividing up fishing quotas between Britain and the EU.
So is Brexit finally done?
Yes, because Britain is out of the EU, its customs union and the single market and no longer bound by their rules. Ties will now be based on the two sides’ 2020 divorce settlement and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement sealed on Thursday.
But those hoping for an end to the often-acrimonious negotiations that followed the Brexit referendum are likely to be disappointed.
The agreement includes transition periods and review clauses, meaning that more negotiation lies ahead on fisheries, trading rules and much else besides.
Source: Fullview and News Agencies.