U.K.’s Frost Sees ‘Moment of National Renewal’ on Trade Deal

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David Frost, Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator, hailed the free-trade agreement with the European Union as a turning point, saying the country will no longer face restrictions from the bloc.

“This should be the beginning of a moment of national renewal for us,” Frost told reporters on a call on Saturday. “We’ve established the U.K. as a country which sets its own laws again.”

The U.K. and the EU concluded a new trade accord on Christmas Eve, averting a bitter breakup and the prospect of punitive tariffs on commerce from Jan. 1. The deal saw the U.K. prioritize the ability to strike out out on its own rather than staying aligned with EU rules, a change that creates extra bureaucracy and costs for businesses.

Frost said the agreement means that the European Court of Justice will no longer have any sway in the U.K., and there will be no direct effect of EU law.

‘Biggest and Broadest’

“Many said we couldn’t do it in the time available,” Frost said. “This is one of the biggest and broadest agreements ever.”

One of the trickiest questions in the negotiations was how to ensure a so-called level playing field between businesses in the U.K. and EU. The final agreement allows either side to impose proportionate tariffs on the other, subject to arbitration, if competition has been distorted. The deal also allows either side to re-negotiate the level playing field, or other parts of the agreement, if they feel the terms are being abused.

Senior members of Britain’s negotiating team said a replacement is being drawn up for the European Health Insurance Card -- which gives travelers from EU countries access to another member state’s health system. The new system will come into force alongside the trade deal.

However, some important areas of the U.K. and EU’s future relationship still remain to be decided, the British side said, including:

  • An agreement over Gibraltar, the British territory which borders Spain
  • The future of financial services, with the U.K. Treasury due to negotiate a memorandum of understanding with the EU as an urgent priority in 2021
  • The question of who will sit on the various arbitration panels which will adjudicate any disputes under the agreement

Earlier Saturday, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said Britain and the EU would enjoy a “special relationship” as a result of the trade accord.

“We can now embark on a new, more hopeful, chapter in our history,” Gove said in an article published in the Times newspaper in London. “We can develop a new pattern of friendly co-operation with the EU, a special relationship if you will, between sovereign equals.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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