The European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom reached a historic agreement for the relationship in the post-Brexit era on Thursday, after almost a year of negotiation with a pandemic involved and only one week after the 1st of January the Community legislation ceases to apply in British territory.
“This moment marks the end of a long journey,” said the president of the European Commission (EC), the German Ursula von der Leyen at a press conference, underlining that the agreement will give the new relationship with the United Kingdom “solid foundations”. “We can finally leave Brexit behind, Europe continues to advance,” he remarked.
“I know this is a difficult day for some,” added Von der Leyen. “And to our friends in the UK, I want to say,” he added, “that parting is such a sweet shame.”
The European negotiator for Brexit, the Frenchman Michel Barnier, also showed “relief” and “sadness”., and indicated that the agreement reached, after a final marathon negotiation, “does not replicate the rights and advantages” that the United Kingdom enjoys until December 31 as a member of the Union and that “despite the agreement there will be many changes for citizens and Business”.
The negotiation, on the departure of the United Kingdom from the EU and the transitory relationship, first and on its future relationship, later, repeatedly missed the deadlines and was difficult and asymmetric between two blocks of very different weight: the population of the The EU has 447 million inhabitants, while that of the United Kingdom is almost 67 million.
In the last leg of the negotiation, substantial competition differences remained, governance and fisheries, which were finally saved and made it possible to prevent relations between the United Kingdom and the 27 countries that make up the EU from being governed as of January 1, 2021 simply by the general framework of the World Trade Organization (WHO ).
After officially leaving the European Union on January 31 of this year, after 47 years of membership, the Negotiations on the future relationship between both parties began on March 2, to be suspended just ten days later due to the coronavirus.
From then until now, the two chief negotiators, the Frenchman Michel Barnier and the British David Frost, had time to catch COVID-19, get cured, meet by video conference and cross the English Channel several times, always in search of an agreement that it ran aground again and again on the same cliffs.
The chapters that got stuck and that the President of the European Commission (EC), Ursula Von der Leyen and the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, tried to promote at the political level in recent days are the guarantees to ensure fair competition between British and Community companies, fishing and mechanisms to resolve disputes over the future pact.
These are the main moments that have marked the negotiations in search of a commercial agreement between the Twenty-seven and the United Kingdom, the first country to leave the community club:
January 23. The Brexit law is sanctioned by Queen Elizabeth II, and the following day Boris Johnson signs the agreement.
January 29. The European Parliament puts the final stamp on the Brexit agreement.
January 31. The UK’s last day in the European Union after 47 years of membership. At midnight European time, the official departure takes place.
February 1st. The transition period begins, during which the UK is no longer a Member State, but all Community laws still apply there.
February 25. The European Union agrees on its negotiating mandate for the future relationship with the United Kingdom.
February 27. The British Government publishes its negotiating guides to negotiate with the EU.
March 2nd. The first round of negotiations for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom begins.
March 12. Negotiations on the future relationship are suspended due to the coronavirus epidemic.
March, 19. The European chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, announces that he has tested positive for coronavirus.
March 20. British chief negotiator David Frost shows “mild symptoms” of the coronavirus and goes into isolation.
April 20th. The conversations are resumed by videoconference. The EU considers “disappointing” the lack of progress on several key issues, such as fisheries or fair competition between companies.
June 12. The United Kingdom officially notifies that it will not request an extension to the transition period, thus effectively limiting the negotiations until December 31, 2020.
June, 15. The European Union and the United Kingdom agree to intensify talks about their relationship after Brexit after a video call between Boris Johnson and the leaders of the European institutions. Negotiations resume, with several rounds during the summer months without significant progress.
September 6th. Boris Johnson gives a deadline until October 15 to reach an agreement with the European Union on Brexit, after which, he said, “we would have to accept (the failure) and turn the page.”
September 7th. The newspaper “Financial Times” reveals that the United Kingdom is preparing a draft Law on the Internal Market with which it can cancel the customs obligations that the United Kingdom acquired to keep the border between the two Ireland open.
September 8th. The British Government acknowledges that the controversial clauses of the Internal Market Act violate the withdrawal agreement to which it had committed with the EU.
October 1st. The European Commission opens infringement proceedings against the UK for its attempt to deactivate parts of the withdrawal agreement.
October 2nd. The European Union notes “serious divergences” in the negotiation of the relationship with the United Kingdom.
October 7. London assures that the agreement is far away despite the supposed ultimatum set for October 15.
October 15th. The European Union expresses its intention to intensify negotiations with the United Kingdom with the aim of reaching an agreement around the end of October.
October 16. Johnson admits the UK is heading for a no-deal Brexit. Later the same day. Von der Leyen assures that the EU continues working to reach an agreement on the relationship with the United Kingdom.
October 22. The European Union and the United Kingdom restart the “intensified” talks with contacts almost daily, including on weekends.
November 9. The House of Lords withdraws from the controversial Internal Market law clauses designed to unilaterally break the agreement with the European Union (EU) on the border in Ireland.
November 19th. Negotiations in person are again canceled when a member of Barnier’s team tests positive for coronavirus.
November 27. Barnier announces that his quarantine has ended and that he will travel to London to continue the talks in person.
December 4th. Negotiations stop when it is found that they remain blocked on the same issues.
December 5th. Ursula von der Leyen and Boris Johnson speak on the phone and instruct their teams to meet again on Sunday the 6th.
December 7th. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron reject a three-way call at Johnson’s request, and refer him to the president of the European Commission. Von der Leyen and Johnson speak again on the phone and agree to meet face to face in Brussels two days later.
December 9. Von der Leyen and Johnson have dinner in Brussels and give themselves until Sunday the 13th to make a decision on the future of the negotiations. Both hint at the difficulties of reaching an agreement in 2020.
December 10. Brussels presents contingency measures for the fishing sector, connections and air safety and road traffic. At a 22-hour European summit, the leaders of the EU countries dispatch Brexit in 10 minutes, which Von der Leyen uses to explain the state of the negotiation.
December 13th. Von der Leyen and Boris Johnson announce that, despite having passed a deadline again, due to “responsibility” they will make one last effort and London and Brussels will continue negotiating.
December 20th. The deadline that the European Parliament considered the maximum for the European Parliament to analyze a hypothetical agreement before January 31 is over.
December 21. Negotiations between London and Brussels continue while most EU countries close air connections with the United Kingdom, and France also road transport, in the face of a new strain of coronavirus detected in England.
Dec. 24. Agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom after a marathon meeting and a time trial to reach an agreement before Christmas.
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