National Post (National Edition)

Despite relief, Brexit agreement leaves major issues unresolved


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:

Level Playing Field

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 offers little clarity for financial firms. There is no decision on socalled 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.


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.


The Brexit trade deal contains a five-and-a-half year transition period for fisheries, during which British fleets will see an uplift equal to 25 per cent of the catch previously caught by EU boats in U.K. waters. After that, access will be subject to annual negotiatio­ns.

The agreement gives both the U.K. and EU the right to levy duties on each other's fish if they can show that any future reduction in access to waters causes economic or social harm.


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.

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