Highlights of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement

Scope: The Agreement is structured into 7 parts;

1. Common and institutional provisions (the basis and framework of the Agreement)
2. Trade, Transport, Fisheries, Energy, Security and other economic aspects
3. Law Enforcement
4. So-called “thematic” issues, notably health collaboration
5. Participation in EU Programmes, principally scientific collaboration
6. Dispute settlement;
7. Final provisions.

We all need a TL;DR of the Brexit deal delivered on Christmas Eve.

Outcomes: The key points are;

  • no tariffs or quotas on goods between the UK and the EU
  • support and no barriers for trade of services and other UK business
  • continued cross-border market access for financial services and investment
  • free flow of capital and payments
  • Brits can easily travel to (and access healthcare in) EU countries. Movement won’t affect social security status, so workers only need to pay tax in one country; typically where they work
  • healthcare provisions to continue, akin to the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme
  • individuals may seek authorisation to receive planned medical treatment in the UK or the EU
  • The UK may determine whether short-term visits from the EU should require a visa
  • Brits can travel to the EU on business for 90 days in any 180-day month period
  • increased UK fishing quotas over next few years
  • free from the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy, the UK may create its own laws and fisheries management strategy
  • the UK and EU will share fishing data as per a commitment to manage marine conservation
  • a new Specialised Committee on Fisheries will support information exchange and cooperation
  • both parties will develop and implement new energy trading arrangements by April 2022. In the mean time, the PRISMA platform will manage gas trading and alternative arrangements will regulate electricity trading
  • each party may set out its own enviromental policy and systems of carbon pricing, but commit to greenhouse gas emission reduction targets without harming trade
  • collaboration on renewable energy
  • collaboration on scientific research
  • the UK has established a separate Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) to cooperate on nuclear regulation and global nuclear non-proliferation. The UK’s commitment to standards, research and cooperation includes participation in schemes such as the European Community Urgent Radiological Information Exchange (ECURIE) and the European Radiological Data Exchange Platform (EURDEP)
  • cooperation on law enforcement, an open internet which protects users’ safety, future digital trade issues, and promotion of fair and transparent rates for international mobile roaming
  • UK to cooperate with EU re serious crime via Europol and Eurojust, though no longer a member of these agencies.
  • direct transmission between judicial authorities to expedite extradition
  • fast exchange of DNA, fingerprint, vehicle registration, Passenger Name Record, and criminal records data between the UK and individual EU Member States will support law enforcement
  • No requirements to store or process personal data in a certain location, while both parties remain strongly commited to data protection
  • open government data must be easily accessible and machine-readable
  • each party will protect the other’s classified information with the same rigour as their own
  • most contracts can be completed digitally
  • UK no longer need follow EU law; the agreement is based on international law
  • UK solicitors, barristers and advocates may advise clients in the EU unless limited by individual countries, which may require registration but not requalification or admission
  • UK free to strive for higher targets for labour environments and carbon emissions
  • EU regulation of State Aid no longer applies in UK
  • cooperating, independent EU and UK competition authorities to apply rigorous and fair competition law
  • cooperative, independent EU and UK systems of subsidy control. Either party may seek compensation if its industries are placed at disadvantage by a disproportionate subsidy from the other party
  • both parties to adhere to tax transparency standards to counter tax avoidance
  • the UK will pay a phased-in fee for participating in various EU programmes. It intends to participate in Horizon Europe, Euratom Research and Training, and Copernicus. Participation to be detailed in a protocol with final agreement, which will also define access to services from the EU Space Surveillance and Tracking programme, in which the UK will not participate
  • a searchable online database will be available so SMEs can understand business obligations in the UK and EU, regarding trading, customs duties, taxes and rules of origin. Both parties to monitor SME activity and help increase opportunities for them
  • Either the UK or EU may decide to terminate the overall Agreement with 12 months’ notice
  • this Agreement does not apply to the overseas countries and territories of the UK or EU

These points are taken from the UK Government’s 34-page summary of the deal, in which each point is sandwiched in Boris Johnson-style upbeat bombastic bluster. In time, expert interpretations will identify what the agreement does not offer the UK, such as the risk posed to London’s significant position in Europe’s financial industry. When publishing the full report, the British government did not clarify details including the when and how for obtaining travel visas, customs duties, and sending goods to the EU. The Prime Minister didn’t give an initial PR push to the Turing student exchange scheme (replacing the EU’s ERASMUS programme); a commendable-sounding inclusion.

A think tank has warned that the deal can easily water down environmental and employment regulations: “The protections it offers on labour and environmental standards are surprisingly weak and appear to leave considerable scope for a UK government to weaken EU-derived protections,” warned Marley Morris, The associate director of the Institute for Public Policy Research. “This leaves protections for workers, climate and the environment at serious risk of being eroded.” The IPPR said the compromises made in the trade deal meant the commitments “are considerably weaker than expected” and that a breach “would be difficult to prove”.


  1. EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement Summary, UK Government, 2020-12
  2. Workers’ rights and environmental protections ‘easily eroded’ by Brexit trade deal, think tank warns, The Independent, 2020-12-28


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