The United Kingdom and European Union have agreed on a post-Brexit trade deal after months of torturous negotiations, averting the prospect of a chaotic and acrimonious divorce at the end of this year.
The deal, announced on Thursday, came just one week before the UK exits the EU’s single market and customs union on December 31.
“The deal is done,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted, as he posted a photo of himself with both thumbs raised in celebration.
Delivering a televised address, Johnson hailed striking what he called “the biggest trade deal yet”, adding that Britain had taken back control of its laws, borders, and fishing waters.
“We have completed the biggest trade deal yet, worth 660 billion pounds a year, a comprehensive Canada-style free trade deal between the UK and the EU,” he said.
Johnson went on to urge Britons to make the most of what he called the country’s soon-to-be status of a “newly and truly independent nation”.
Addressing the EU, he added: “We will be your friend, your ally, your supporter and indeed, never let it be forgotten, your number one market.”
The deal will ensure the UK and the 27-nation bloc can continue to trade in goods without tariffs or quotas, smoothing trade worth hundreds of billions of pounds – and euros – a year between the pair.
Still, there will be some major changes come January 1, when more rules and increased bureaucracy will come into effect. How Britons and Europeans travel, live and work between the country and continent will also change.
EU and British negotiators were up all night working on the agreement, reportedly fuelled by takeaway pizzas, as they hashed out final details at the Berlaymont in Brussels, the headquarters of the European Commission.
Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, meanwhile, spoke several times by phone.
“Parting is such sweet sorrow,” von der Leyen said in Brussels shortly after the deal was announced. “It is time to leave Brexit behind. Our future is made in Europe.
“We have finally found an agreement. It was a long and winding road but we have got a good deal to show for it.
“It is fair, it is a balanced deal and it is the right and responsible thing to do for both sides.”
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, speaking alongside von der Leyen, said: “Today is a day of relief, but tinged by some sadness as we compare what came before with what lies ahead.
“The clock is no longer ticking, after four years of collective effort and EU unity to preserve peace and stability on the island of Ireland, to protect the citizens and the single market, and to build a new partnership with the UK.”
The deal comes more than four years after a slim majority of Britons voted to quit the EU in a June 2016 referendum on membership of the bloc.
The agreement document is said to be about 1,500 pages long. In essence, it is a narrow free trade pact surrounded with other agreements on a range of issues including energy, transport and police and security cooperation.