Is this Brexit agreement the real deal or just a political phantasy
The trade agreement between the U.K. and the European Union brought welcome relief to businesses, averting the prospect of punitive tariffs and a chaotic no-deal split from Britain’s largest trading partner this week.
However, the deal leaves major issues either unresolved or at risk of flaring up again. Here’s where the Brexit accord may cause problems in future.
Fair business competition
A deal over the so-called level playing field, creating the conditions for fair competition between businesses, was one of the thorniest parts of negotiations.
The agreed compromise means the U.K. doesn’t have to align with EU laws, but the bloc can impose proportionate tariffs, subject to arbitration, if it can show Britain’s actions have distorted fair competition.
This means the question of levies on U.K.-EU trade is still far from settled and is a live issue. One of the central arguments of the campaign to leave the bloc was that Britain would “take back control” of its own laws, and euroskeptic members of Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party have called on the prime minister to seize the opportunity to slash regulations.
The deal also contains a “review” clause which allows either side to periodically re-negotiate this part of the treaty if they are unhappy with how it is being used. The trade deal could therefore still collapse in future if the U.K. or EU decide it isn’t working out.
Questions about finance equivalence selling UK services in EU’s single market
The deal offers little clarity for financial firms. There is no decision on so-called equivalence, which would allow firms to sell their services into the EU’s single market from the City of London.
The agreement only features standard provisions on financial services, meaning it doesn’t include commitments on market access.
Johnson told the Sunday Telegraph the deal “perhaps does not go as far as we would like“ on financial services, in a rare admission his strategy in the talks had fallen short.
The Treasury is due to negotiate a memorandum of understanding with the EU as an urgent priority in 2021 and London will continue discussions with Brussels over access and equivalence for financial services, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said on Sunday.
Data protection standards only valid for interim period of 6 months
The U.K. and EU have only agreed a temporary solution to keep data flowing between their territories. For an interim period of a maximum of six months, data can continue to be transferred until a separate legal agreement is reached.
EU officials have said a so-called data adequacy decision, which would certify that U.K. data protection standards are comparable with the bloc’s, could be made in early 2021.
Gibraltar, not yet included in the Brexit deal
The U.K. and EU are still yet to come to an agreement over Gibraltar, the British territory connected to mainland Spain. Without a deal, crossing the frontier could be more difficult, which could cause long queues for commuters and significant economic disruption. About 15,000 workers cross the border every day.
Any attempt by Spain to erode or even end British control of the territory has long raised the hackles of Conservative lawmakers, including former leader Iain Duncan Smith, and they will fight hard to stop the U.K. giving any concessions.