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BREXIT

‘The deal is done’: EU and UK finally reach a Brexit trade agreement

After months of fraught negotiations the EU and the UK have finally reached a trade deal, both sides announced on Thursday.

'The deal is done': EU and UK finally reach a Brexit trade agreement
Francisco Seco / POOL / AFP

After announcing the deal chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said: “Today is a day of relief. But tinged with some sadness.As we compare what came before, with what lies ahead.”

Europe Commission chief Ursula Von der Leyen said: “It was worth fighting for this deal. We now have a fair & balanced agreement with the UK. It will protect our EU interests, ensure fair competition & provide predictability for our fishing communities.

“Europe is now moving on,” she added.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “The deal is done.”

Johnson, who promised the British public he would “get Brexit done”, also posted a photograph of himself celebrating in front of the Union Jack flag.

The deal has been sealed just seven days before Britain exits the EU and one of the world’s biggest trade blocs.

“Deal is done,” a Downing Street source told Reuters. “We have taken back control of our money, borders, laws, trade and our fishing waters…

“We have delivered this great deal for the entire United Kingdom in record time, and under extremely challenging conditions … all of our key red lines about returning sovereignty have been achieved.”

The UK's International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said separately the deal would lead to a “strong trading relationship” with Brussels and other partners around the world.

The deal had been all set to go ahead earlier on Thursday, but last minute haggling over fishing created a delay.

The UK formally left the EU on January 31 2020, but has since been in a transition period, during which rules on trade, travel and business would be discussed. So far, these things have remained unchanged, but the new Brexit deals will come into effect on January 1 2021.

No Erasmus, no freedom of movement 

Chief negotiator Barnier said there were two important areas of regret for Europe, notably around the UK's decision to end freedom of movement and the its refusal to continue its participation in the Erasmus student exchange scheme.

“I am simply expressing two regrets about this societal cooperation, he said. 

“That the British government chose not to participate in the Erasmus exchange program; That the ambition in terms of citizen mobility does not match our historical ties. 

“And again, it is the choice of the British government.”

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BREXIT

Driving licences: Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement?

With ongoing uncertainty over whether UK driving licences will continue to be recognised in Italy beyond the end of this year, British residents are asking where they stand.

Driving licences: Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement?

Many of The Local’s British readers have been in touch recently to ask whether any progress has been made in negotiations between the UK and Italy on a reciprocal agreement on the use of driving licences.

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance that you’re familiar with the background of this Brexit consequence.

READ ALSO: Frustration grows as UK driving licence holders in Italy wait in limbo

When Britain left the EU there was no reciprocal agreement in place, but UK licence holders living in Italy were granted a grace period in which they could continue to drive on their British licences. This period was later extended to the current deadline of December 31st, 2022.

The situation beyond that date however remains unclear, and concern is growing among the sizeable number of British nationals living in Italy who say no longer being allowed to drive would be a serious problem.

There was the option of exchanging licences before the end of 2021, but many didn’t make the deadline. As has been proven before, this was often not due to slackness but rather all manner of circumstances, from having moved to Italy after or shortly before the cut-off date to bureaucratic delays.

Driving licences: How does the situation for Brits in Italy compare to rest of Europe?

So is an agreement any closer? Or do those driving in Italy on a UK licence really need to go to the considerable trouble and expense of sitting an Italian driving test (in Italian)?

With five months left to go, there’s still no indication as to whether a decision will be made either way.

The British government continues to advise licence holders to sit their Italian driving test – while also stressing that they’re working hard on reaching a deal, which would make taking the test unnecessary.

This message has not changed.

On Wednesday, July 27th, British Ambassador to Italy Ed Llewellyn tweeted after a meeting with Italian Infrastructure and Transport Minister Enrico Giovannini: “The British and Italian governments continue to work towards an agreement on exchange of driving licences.”

But the ambassador earlier this month advised UK nationals “not to wait” and to “take action now by applying for an Italian licence”.

In an official newsletter published in mid-July, Llewellyn acknowledged the concerns of British residents and confirmed that negotiations are still going on.

“I know that many of you are understandably concerned about whether your UK driving licence will continue to be recognised in Italy, especially when the extension granted by Italy until 31 December 2022 for such recognition expires.

“Let me set out where things stand. The British Government is working to reach an agreement with Italy on the right to exchange a licence without the need for a test. 

READ ALSO:  Do you have to take Italy’s driving test in Italian?

“The discussions with our Italian colleagues are continuing and our objective is to try to reach an agreement in good time before the end of the year.

“We hope it will be possible to reach an agreement – that is our objective and we are working hard to try to deliver it. 

Nevertheless, he said, “our advice is not to wait to exchange your licence.”

“If you need to drive in Italy, you can take action now by applying for an Italian licence. This will, however, involve taking a practical and theory test.” 

He acknowledged that “the process is not a straightforward one and that there are delays in some areas to book an appointment for a test”.

READ ALSO: ‘Anyone can do it’: Why passing your Italian driving test isn’t as difficult as it sounds

“We will continue to work towards an agreement,” he wrote. “That is our objective and it is an objective we share with our Italian colleagues.“

The British Embassy in Rome had not responded to The Local’s requests for further comment on Friday.

The Local will continue to publish any news on the recognition of British driving licences in Italy. See the latest updates in our Brexit-related news section here.

Find more information on the UK government website’s Living in Italy section.

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