Boris Johnson is expected to announce later that the UK has reached an agreement with the EU over post-Brexit trade and security.
As afternoon gave way to evening and evening gave way to night in Brussels optimism that agreement was close never dwindled, but never quite turned into a deal either. At one point pizzas arrived for the weary officials – a delivery man on a bike turning up at the front gates of the European Commission.
It was understood that negotiators were still haggling over precise quotas of individual species of fish that EU boats will be allowed to catch in British waters. The governments of individual EU member states must consider the details of any deal but they have been briefed regularly throughout the process and shouldn’t find much if anything to surprise them.
The issue of how to promote the deal for public consumption is much more pressing for the British side than the European. For the EU there are legal loose ends to be tied up but the European Parliament will only vote on a deal retrospectively at some point in the New Year.
In the UK the government will have to get any deal through parliament before 31 December.
Sir Ian Cheshire, chairman of Barclays UK, said he welcomed an agreement, which would bring “clarity” for business. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said planning for a new trading relationship with the EU had been “the overriding issue for businesses over the last two years”.
“This was pure politics. It was always the last minute sort of rabbit from the hat,” he added.
- Brexit happened but rules didn’t change at once: The UK left the European Union on 31 January 2020, but leaders needed time to negotiate a deal for life afterwards – they got 11 months.
- Talks are happening: The UK and the EU have until 31 December 2020 to agree a trade deal as well as other things, such as fishing rights.
- If there is no deal: Border checks and taxes will be introduced for goods travelling between the UK and the EU. But deal or no deal, we will still see changes.