politics

15 details buried in the small print of Boris Johnson's 1,246-page Brexit deal


The UK and EU have agreed a historic trade deal from January 1 in a major victory for Boris Johnson.

The pact prevents tariffs or quotas being slapped on £668 billion a year of trade due to Brexit.

But since the 1,246-page legal text was published on Boxing Day, some awkward details have begun to emerge in small print.

Fishing groups have accused Boris Johnson of “betraying” them – while there are blank spaces for industries like the City.

There are, of course, many things that will happen on January 1 despite the deal – and we’ve detailed them here.

But what about in the small print of the deal itself? Here are 15 of the most curious or awkward nuggets that have been spotted so far.

What do you think of the deal? Let us know in the comments section below.



Boris Johnson showing off the deal on Twitter just before Christmas – the 1,246-page text was released in a Boxing Day hangover

1. British farmers face a sausage ban on selling into the EU

British chilled mince and sausages will be banned from being exported into the EU after January 1, the government says.

Negotiators had been hoping for a wider pact to allow “chilled meat preparations” to be moved between the UK and EU.

But the Brexit deal makes clear that, while there will be some co-operation, the EU and UK will each have their own “sanitary” rules.

And government guidance to British businesses, updated on December 28, bluntly says “you will not be able to export” chilled mince, chilled raw sausages, ungraded eggs or some unpasteurised milk into the EU.



Boris Johnson at a North Yorkshire sausage factory during the Tory leadership campaign

In Northern Ireland a six-month transition period will allow chilled mince and sausages to keep being moved from Britain to Belfast until the end of June 2021.

But after that there is still no firm arrangement for Irish Sea trade. Katy Hayward, of the UK in a Changing Europe think tank, said in essence there’s “no way of getting those chilled meat products into Northern Ireland” after July 1.

A Trade Specialised Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures will be able to clarify rules and rule on disputes, so changes are possible in future.

Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association, told the Mirror he hoped the problems would be solved in the coming months. He added most exports of such goods were to Northern Ireland not the EU.

But he added: “For some people it’s quite a significant blow. Some businesses will have developed a trade around it and they won’t be able to do it”.

The government has been contacted for further comment.

2. Fishing boats are facing ‘betrayal’

Boris Johnson has been accused of “betraying” the fishing industry over the small print of his Brexit deal.

The Prime Minister boasted his 1,246-page pact would make Britain an “independent coastal state with full control of our waters”.

He said it would hand around 25% of the value of the EU’s current catch in UK waters back to UK fishermen by summer 2026.

But the small print of his deal reveals changes in quotas vary dramatically depending on which species is being caught in which part of the sea.

The UK share of cod West of Scotland will soar from 69.8% to 81.2% by 2026 – taking back 38% of what EU boats currently catch in the area.



Fishing catches in UK waters will improve, but it’s not the land of milk and honey

But the UK will only take back 4% of the EU’s catch of sole in the Western Channel, off the coast of Cornwall.

For other species, such as Northern Prawn in the North Sea, the UK/EU quotas will remain unchanged.

The PM also said after 2026, there was “no theoretical limit” on what British boats could land.

But after 2026, EU fishing in UK waters won’t end – instead there will be annual negotiations over what is caught.

The deal says those negotiations “should normally” lead to each side getting a quota that’s “reasonably commensurate” with what they had before.

And if the UK acts unfairly, the EU can take “compensatory measures” or – in the worst case scenario – collapse the trade deal entirely.

3. The whole deal could come crashing down after four years



EU chief Ursula von der Leyen warned there would be ways to keep either side in line

The whole trade deal can be reviewed after four years and could – in a worst-case scenario – be axed.

A No10 spokesman said: “If the UK or EU does not believe the system is working fairly, either side will have the ability to bring the agreement on trade to an end.

“The UK and EU would then trade on Australian-style terms.” This means having no Brexit deal at all.

There are several ways the deal could be terminated. Those include if either side decides to terminate the agreement on fishing, the rest of the trade elements of the pact would come crashing down as well.

4. Erasmus is coming to an end



Erasmus will be replaced with a new global scheme

The UK has quit the Erasmus student exchange programme after Brexit, complaining it is too “expensive”.

The scheme allows UK university students to study abroad in one of 32 participating nations. Some can get a “large contribution” to their tuition fees back in the UK as well as a grant of up to €350 a month.

But Boris Johnson complained the programme, which the UK joined in 1987, was “extremely expensive”.

He announced the UK will launch a replacement programme named after Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing. The Prime Minister boasted the new ‘Turing Scheme’ will allow students to study at universities across the world, not just Europe.

The scheme would cost around £100m, open for bids for 35,000 places starting in September 2021, and be open to schools, colleges and universities.

But Universities UK said leaving Erasmus was “disappointing” and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said it was one of his only two regrets. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon branded it an act of “cultural vandalism”.

5. You’ll still need travel insurance – despite a health deal



European Health Insurance Cards will continue – but it doesn’t mean everything’s hunky dory

Brits have been warned they must still get full travel insurance for trips to the EU from January 1 – despite the deal.

The 1,246-page agreement says Brits can continue to get emergency healthcare while on holiday, like they can under the European Health Insurance Card.

People’s current EHICs will continue to be valid until they expire. They will then be replaced with a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC).

The UK is in talks about further co-operation with non-EU states Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

But despite this, Brits are being warned they must get comprehensive cover anyway if they are planning a trip to the continent.

Officials say that is because EHICs only ever covered certain types of healthcare – in other words, emergency or necessary care.

The Brexit deal doesn’t cover Brits who travel to an EU country “with the purpose of receiving” healthcare – except for a limited number of exemptions.

6. Car plants face a ‘tight’ future



Calls have been mounted to help car manufacturers

Britain’s car plants have been saved in the short term by the Brexit deal – which stops car exports to the EU being hit with 10% tariffs.

It also guarantees car makers can use parts from within both the UK and EU without triggering extra tariffs.

However, there will be limits on how many parts a factory can source from outside Europe completely. If a car was assembled in Sunderland but made of 80% Japanese parts, it would count as Japanese and be hit with the 10% tariff.

Under the Brexit deal, these “rules of origin” will be phased in. So the UK’s hybrid cars for example will only need a minimum of 40% local content at first to avoid tariffs, but this will rise to 45% from 2024 and 55% from 2027.

The UK government said the rates are enough to “ensure UK-made electric vehicles are eligible for preferential tariff rates”.

But Prof David Bailey, of the UK in a Changing Europe think tank, said it was a “compromise” because the UK asked for more.

He added: “This could still be tight for some manufacturers when it comes to batteries or high value hybrid systems from outside the EU. Toyota, for example, might struggle to qualify its UK assembled hybrids for tariff free export to the EU – although it has time to increase local content, such as via its UK engine plant.”

7. And there’s a four-year paper trail

There will be hefty audit rules for car makers and other businesses who have to prove the origin of their parts.

This could add costs and bureaucracy to businesses which, in some cases, are already struggling.

The Brexit deal says exporters who’ve declared the origin of their goods will keep copies of all records “for a minimum of four years”.

8. Financial services are in the dark



There are unanswered questions when it comes to the City

The trade agreement is mostly about rules for goods crossing the border – it is less clear when it comes to the trade in services.

The deal contains a commitment to work to build closer arrangements, but it hasn’t secured the same level of access as pre-Brexit.

For many British companies, this will prove a major headache with the true extent of how difficult or not the deal will be for services set to play out in the coming years.

Boris Johnson admitted the language on the City was “perhaps not as much as we would have liked” but the deal would “enable our dynamic City of London to get on and prosper as never before.”

However, Prof Sarah Hall of the UK in a Changing Europe think thank warned: “UK based financial services firms will either have to comply with the different requirements of individual member states or rely on equivalence decisions.

“Neither is a like for like replacement for the EU wide common access facilitated through passporting.

“Seeking permissions on a state by state basis would add complexity and hence costs for financial services firms.”

9. Trade talks are far from over

The deal is certainly ambitious. But there is also a long list of things that haven’t yet been resolved.

Jill Rutter of the UK in a Changing Europe think tank warned: “This is not a final done deal in many respects. There are lots of details still outstanding or to be filled in.”

It contains the bare bones for a forum to hold talks between the UK and EU – a “Partnership Council” which “will supervise the operation of the Agreement at a political level”.

So while Brexit might soon be over – talks between the UK and EU will not be for many years. They’ll just happen behind the scenes.

10. And customs checks will put a ‘burden’ on firms



Lorries being held at Manston Airport in Kent during Covid-related disruption

While the deal prevents expensive tariffs on UK goods, it doesn’t stop all disruption due to Brexit.

This is because we’re leaving the EU’s single market and customs union, so firms need to fill out a host of new declarations.

Pages and pages of the Brexit deal are devoted to the minutiae of customs rules between the two territories.

And while there will be measures to make things easier – like co-operation at Dover and Holyhead and the sharing of import/export data – not all of these will come on January 1. Some will only be in “pilot” form.

The UK government admits it will need to be “reducing administrative burdens on business in the longer term” – burdens that didn’t exist before Brexit.

It’s all a far cry from Boris Johnson’s claim on December 24 that “there will be no non-tariff barriers to trade”. This was flagrantly untrue.

11. We could still end up slapping each other with tariffs

The ‘level playing field’ was a big sticking point. This means a set of common rules and standards to ensure fair competition.

This stops businesses in one country with one set of laws (the UK) gaining an advantage over those in other countries with other laws (the EU).

Under these rules, each side will be able to take action “as sovereign equals” if the other side undercuts their industry.

This means the EU will be able to slap tariffs on UK exports if the UK is seen to undercut EU rules – and vice versa.

Boris Johnson insisted this would have to be “proportionate”, infrequent and “subject to arbitration”.

No10 said any trade “distortion” in these cases would have to be proven to have lasted six months or more, and be considered by an independent arbitration panel.

12. The EU will work with the UK on security – but only if the Tories behave on human rights

A big issue in negotiations – and one where both the EU and UK were keen to work together – was on security, and tackling cross border organised crime and terrorism.

And the deal is an ambitious one with clear rules on the sharing of fingerprints, DNA and other forensic data.

The EU said the deal “builds new operational capabilities, taking account of the fact that the UK, as a non-EU member outside of the Schengen area, will not have the same facilities as before”.

However, Brussels has set a major condition on this agreement – the Tories must observe their commitments to the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Commission said: “The security cooperation can be suspended in case of violations by the UK of its commitment for continued adherence to the European Convention of Human Rights and its domestic enforcement.”

It comes after the Conservatives confirmed that they were launching a review of the Human Rights Act which gives the ECHR force in UK law.

13. There’s a special clause to avoid wine price rises



Quaff away

It is fair to say there are things the continent does better than the UK.

And while we’re willing to bet we’d win a chip butty contest with anyone, only the best of England’s wine can hope to hold its own against European rivals.

Many goods could end up more expensive despite the trade deal, because they’ll need new declarations or checks to enter or leave the EU’s single market and customs union.

But fear not, hearty quaffers – because a special provision in the deal has been written to protect the flow of vino on to our shores.

It means Spanish or French wine exporters need only “simplified certification, documentation, labelling and packaging requirements” in order to be imported into the UK.

This basically just means the price of wine might not rise as much as some other European luxury goods.

14. The European Parliament won’t get a vote before the deal starts



Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, in the European Parliament

The deal has to be ratified by 27 EU leaders and the UK and European Parliaments.

But it’s come so late, the European Parliament won’t get a vote before it takes force.

Instead it will enter force as a “matter of special urgency”, provisionally until 28 February 2021, to avoid EU rules ending abruptly at 11pm on New Year’s Eve.

15. And finally… it’s still not as smooth as being in the EU

As if to make all that UK citizens are losing painfully clear, the EU has released a brutal graphic showing the impact Brexit will have on people in the UK.

It points out we will need a visa for visits of more than 90 days, and will no longer benefit from “frictionless trade”.

By comparison, a string of green ticks show the benefits of EU membership for those living in member states.

So while EU Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen went to great pains to point out that the deal was “fair”, clearly the EU want it to be clear they believe the UK will be worse off after Brexit.



The European Commission released a list comparing the rights of people in member states with those in the UK

In her press conference, Ms von der Leyen proclaimed the now the UK and EU can “finally put Brexit behind us” and become “long-term friends” after five years of Brexit strife.

But she warned: “No deal in the world can change reality or gravity in international affairs. We are one of the giants.”

She added: “This whole debate has always been about sovereignty but we should cut through the sound bite and ask ourselves what sovereignty actually means in the 21st century.

“For me is is being able to work, study, and do businesses in any of 27 countries…to make ourselves heard in a world of great powers.”





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