In brief, while there have been some interim arrangements signed in the past two years, this trade deal defines the long-term relations between the EU and Britain once Britain finally leaves the EU single market on January 1.
The deal implies a relatively “hard” Brexit with much weaker economic and social ties between Britain and the EU than currently apply.
Britain’s huge services sector, including the financial hub of the City of London, will lose privileges to operate inside the EU. British retirees who have long been used to moving south to warmer climes will need visas to live in Spain or the south of France.
While no import tariffs will apply on the $825 billion of goods traded between the two entities, the deal reintroduces cumbersome customs border controls that disappeared decades ago.
The British Office of Budget Responsibility reckons Britain’s gross domestic product will be reduced by 4 per cent under the terms of the Brexit deal.
Mr Johnson says it is a price worth paying to achieve what Brexiteers most covet: restoring the country’s sovereignty and freeing Britain from the EU’s bureaucracy.
But the deal leaves some EU bureaucracy in place. Britain has agreed that it will still face EU sanctions if it adopts policies that give it an unfair advantage over EU competitors.
The new deal could also complicate the union between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland wants to stay in the EU. Brexit may lead the Scots to another secession bid. Northern Ireland will essentially remain in the EU’s single market, separating it economically from the rest of the UK. This could embolden those advocating the reunification of Ireland.
From an Australian point of view, the deal opens up opportunities for increased exports to Britain, which will leave the EU’s protectionist Common Agricultural Policy. It adds to the case for fast progress on the free trade deals now being negotiated with the EU and Britain.
Politically, Australia will have to find a way to manage relations with the EU without Britain as a potential ally inside the room at key meetings in Brussels.
Whatever its shortcomings and compromises, the deal is far better than the “no deal” backed by nostalgic “little Englanders” including former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott. “No deal” would have caused chaos and queues of lorries at English Channel ports. It would have killed overnight the economic interdependence built up over 46 years and started arguments that would have poisoned relations between Britain and the EU for decades. The two sides could now stop bickering over details like fishing rights and look to the future.
The road ahead is uncertain but one thing is clear: it will be a future where, given their geographic and ideological closeness, the EU and Britain will want to work together as friends. That will help Australia and the whole world.
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