EU and UK negotiators have reached a deal on a post-Brexit trade agreement, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Thursday.
“We have finally found an agreement,” she said. “It was long and winding road but we have got a good deal to show for it,” von der Leyen added, calling the deal fair and balanced.
The deal will protect European interests as well as the UK’s interests, according to von der Leyen.
“Now is the time to turn the page and look to the future,” she said. “The United Kingdom is a third country, but it remains a trusted partner. We are long-standing allies. We share the same values and interests,” von der Leyen said.
“The European Union and the United Kingdom will stand shoulder to shoulder to deliver on our common global goals,” she added.
Von der Leyen thanked David Frost and Tim Barrow “for having been tough but fair negotiating partners.”
“At the end of a successful negotiations journey, I normally feel joy, but today I only feel quite satisfaction and, frankly speaking, relief,” she said.
“What we call the beginning is often the end, and to make an end is to make a beginning,” von der Leyen said, quoting T.S. Eliot.
A press conference was initially set to happen at 9:00 AM Belgian time, but negotiations continued into the day.
The deal has been nearly 10 months in the making, as a first round of negotiations between the EU and the UK – fronted by chief Brexit negotiators Michel Barnier and David Frost respectively – started on 2 March.
The post-Brexit trade agreement comes just eight days before the end of a transition period in which the UK remained part of the EU’s customs union and single market.
If the UK and the EU hadn’t reached a deal, World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules would have applied between the two from the new year, and would have meant the introduction of high tariffs and extensive customs controls.