Brexit: EU diplomats to get trade deal briefing

Boris Johnson holds up a draft of the Brexit deal document in video message on Christmas Eve 2020 

EU ambassadors are to receive a Christmas Day briefing on the post-Brexit trade deal reached with the UK.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier will update the diplomats on the agreement, reached after months of fraught talks on fishing rights and business rules.

The UK is set to exit EU trading rules on 31 December - a year after officially leaving the 27-nation bloc.

MPs are still waiting to see the full text of the free trade deal ahead of a vote in Parliament on 30 December.

Labour said it was a "thin agreement" but they would back it as the only alternative to a no deal, meaning it should win approval.

The European Parliament needs to ratify the deal but it is unlikely to do so until the new year, meaning its application will formally be provisional until then.

34-page summary of the deal has been published on the government's website.

The UK's chief trade negotiator Lord Frost, said the full document, which is made up of about 1,500 pages - including approximately 1,000 pages of annexes and footnotes - would be published soon.

In a Christmas video message, posted on Twitter on Thursday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson brandished a draft copy of the document.

He said: "Tonight, on Christmas Eve, I have a small present for anyone who may be looking for something to read in that sleepy post-Christmas lunch moment, and here it is, tidings, glad tidings of great joy because this is a deal.

"A deal to give certainty to business, travellers, and all investors in our country from January 1. A deal with our friends and partners in the EU."

Earlier, at a Downing Street press conference soon after the deal was announced, Mr Johnson said: "We have taken back control of our laws and our destiny," but stressed the UK "will remain culturally, emotionally, historically, strategically and geologically attached to Europe".

In a press conference in Brussels, European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen said the deal was "fair" and "balanced" and it was now "time to turn the page and look to the future". The UK "remains a trusted partner," she added.

The deal comes four-and-a-half years after the UK voted to leave the EU and will define the future relationship for decades.

Goods will continue to be traded free of tariffs and quotas, and there will be independent arbitration to resolve future disputes.

It will mean big changes for business, with the UK and EU forming two separate markets, and the end of free movement.

But it will have come as a major relief to many British businesses, already reeling from the impact of coronavirus, who feared disruption at the borders and the imposition of tariffs, or taxes on imports.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer - who campaigned against Brexit - said his party would vote for the deal in the Commons.

He said the deal "does not provide adequate protections" for jobs, manufacturing, financial services or workplace rights and "is not the deal the government promised".

But with no time left to renegotiate, the only choice was between "this deal or no deal," he added.

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