A trade deal has been agreed
The UK and EU have agreed a Brexit deal after hours of delays in the final stage of negotiations.
Boris Johnson will deliver a press conference from Downing Street at 3pm as the EU holds one in Brussels.
The final stage was delayed by the European Commission using out-of-date figures to calculate the reduction in the amount of fish member states can catch in UK waters after January 1.
Hopes had soared that a deal was finally in the grasp of negotiators but, according to sources close to the negotiations, the EU had got its sums badly wrong.
Fears are building in Brussels that talks over more than 100 shared fish stocks could stretch into Christmas Day.
“All I want for Christmas is a quick Brexit deal now,” an EU diplomat said.
“They are going to end up announcing the deal in the Queen’s Christmas speech aren’t they?”, said one frustrated EU diplomatic source.
Follow the latest updates below.
Britain has taken back control, say UK sources
Following the agreement of a Brexit deal between negotiators, a UK source said: “The deal is done. Everything that the British public was promised during the 2016 referendum and in the general election last year is delivered by this deal.
“We have taken back control of our money, borders, laws, trade and our fishing waters.
“The deal is fantastic news for families and businesses in every part of the UK. We have signed the first free trade agreement based on zero tariffs and zero quotas that has ever been achieved with the EU.”
EU ambassadors’ meeting cancelled as talks overrun
A planned meeting of EU ambassadors to review the finalised Brexit trade deal and get a briefing on the agreement from Michel Barnier was cancelled at about 3.10pm local time, as the talks overran, James Crisp reports.
“We have asked EU Ambassadors to be available during the Christmas period,” a spokesman in Brussels said.
Delay caused by out of date fishing figures
Cod Almighty: Talks have been delayed yet again by dodgy maths in Brussels – Ben Stansall/AFP
The lengthy delay in today’s announcement on the trade deal is caused by the European Commission using out of date figures on the amount of fish that EU member states catch in UK waters, The Telegraph understands.
Boris Johnson is understood to have made a major concession to the EU by agreeing to their red line of no more than 25 percent of the value of fish caught in UK waters being repatriated to British fishermen.
In return, he secured a five and a half transition period during which the new quotas would take effect before annual negotiations over fishing opportunities with the EU would begin.
But the Commission’s sums on fishing stocks were wrong, causing alarm when the contents of the deal was reported back to member states.
The deal has been delayed while officials work through the issues.
More than 2,000 lorry drivers have been tested for Covid-19
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, has tweeted that more than 2,300 drivers have been tested for coronavirus at the border in Kent.
The French government requires drivers to be tested before they can travel to the Continent with their freight.
Kent haulier testing results to date –
2,367 tests carried out as of midday, of which:
As the EU Transport Commissioner has tweeted, testing hauliers is not recommended. Spending days in a lorry on your own puts you in an extremely low risk category!
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) December 24, 2020
Brexit gains shrink as the City breaks for Christmas
Early gains on the FTSE 100, which opened up 0.43 per cent on hopes that a Brexit trade deal would be signed today, fell back as the leading index of shares closed up just 0.1 per cent. The FTSE 250, which is made up of more UK-focused businesses, enjoyed a bigger boost, closing up 1.23 per cent.
London stock markets close at 12.30pm on Christmas Eve.
Banks, property developers and food businesses enjoyed the biggest growth, with shares in Lloyds, Tesco, Legal & General, and Barratt Developments among the biggest risers for the day.
UK granted status to continue to trade food with EU
Exports of meat, fish and dairy products to the European Union will be able to continue beyond January 1 after the United Kingdom was granted “national listed status”.
The measure means live animals and products of animal origin can be supplied to the EU after Brussels confirmed the UK met health and biosecurity standards.
The EU has also agreed to the exports of many plants and plant products can continue being exported to the bloc and Northern Ireland.
But seed potatoes – an important Scottish export – will be banned, leading Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to condemn the “disastrous” outcome.
UK chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss said: “Third country listed status demonstrates our very high standards of biosecurity and animal health which we will continue to maintain after the end of the transition period.”
‘Good few hours left’ before deal is agreed – EU source
An EU source tells the BBC there is a “good few hours yet” left on the negotiations before the deal will be announced.
UK sources said there were “some hours” to go.
It is looking increasingly likely this could run into Christmas Day.
EU official close to the talks says there’s “a good few hours yet” on the negotiations before they can conclude. 🤔#BrexitDeal #Brexit
— Gavin Lee (@GavinLeeBBC) December 24, 2020
Stop Brexit man is working on Christmas Eve
He and his loud hailer have become a familiar fixture in Westminster over the last four years.
So he would be loathe to miss one of the biggest Brexit news days just because it is Christmas Eve.
Here is Steve Bray – also known as the Stop Brexit man – who shouts behind broadcasters outside the Palace of Westminster, annoying Liz Bates from Channel 4.
World’s media waits for Brexit white smoke
A large media presence is in place outside Downing Street as journalists await an update on the post-Brexit trade deal.
More than a dozen television camera crews, along with several photographers and reporters are set up in front of Number 10.
Reporters gather in anticipation of an announcement – Jason Alden/BloombergMore than a dozen film crews are waiting – Jason Alden/Bloomberg
More warnings from seed potato industry
Archie Gibson is executive director of Agriko UK, a supplier of certified Scottish, English and Dutch seed and exporter of seed potatoes in the UK through parent company Agrico Holland. He said: “It appears seed is prohibited from sale into EU markets. That means that markets Scottish growers have developed for export over a number of years will in effect not be available to us from 1 January.
“We know officials at all levels of government in Scotland and the rest of the UK are well aware of the potential damage to the UK seed industry and have made representations about it.”
Mr Gibson said: “To lose access to those markets established over the last 40 years will have a significant impact on our industry and for European markets as well, it’s going to have a negative impact on their business as well.”
He added: “Some businesses could suffer considerable financial hardship. It’s too early to say at this moment in time but I think belt tightening will be in order for everyone.”
Senior Tory Brexiteers ready to reconvene the ‘Star Chamber’ to scrutinise UK-EU trade deal
Sir Bill Cash, 80, will chair Star Chamber – Alberto Pezzali/AP
Senior Conservative Brexiteers are preparing to reconvene a panel of lawyers to scrutinise the UK-EU trade deal that Boris Johnson is expected to announce on Friday.
The European Research Group (ERG) of hardline pro-Leave Tory MPs on Wednesday night served notice they will reassemble the “Star Chamber” that last year reviewed Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement.
Sir William Cash, 80, will resume the chairmanship of the panel of legal experts. The views of the qualified solicitor, who is MP for Stone in Staffordshire, are held in esteem by ERG colleagues with some privately warning that Mr Johnson’s agreement must pass the “Bill Cash test” if they are to back it.
Lucy Fisher, Deputy Political Editor, has the full story here.
Deal will have ‘major negative impact’ on economy, says Shadow Chancellor
Anneliese Dodds warned that the deal expected to be secured would still result in a “major negative impact” on gross domestic product, a measure of the size of the economy. She said: “Indications a deal is imminent mean many businesses are breathing a sigh of relief.
“Yet early indications suggest this thin deal will have a major negative impact on GDP,” the Shadow Chancellor said.
“With key industries subject to substantial barriers, these are not the promised ‘exact same benefits’.”
Is a Downing Street press conference on the way?
The press are gathered outside 10 Downing Street in anticipation of a statement – REUTERS/HENRY NICHOLLS
A TV crew has been seen entering Number 11 Downing Street ahead of an expected statement from Boris Johnson, the PA news agency is reporting.
That could mean a statement from the Prime Minister is on its way.
Lorry laden ferry leaves the Port of Dover
Freight lorries have left the Port of Dover for the first time since France imposed a travel ban three days ago.
Lorry drivers are only allowed to travel across the border once they have tested negative for coronavirus.
The DFDS Seaways ferry Cote des Dunes, loaded with freight lorries, departs from the Port of Dover – Aaron Chown/PA
Nicola Sturgeon says seed potato rules are ‘disastrous’ for Scottish farmers
After the BBC reported that seed potatoes would not be included in a deal with the EU on the export of UK crops, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted:
This is a disastrous Brexit outcome for Scottish farmers…and like all other aspects of Brexit, foisted on Scotland against our will. https://t.co/jWruc1RL46
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) December 24, 2020
Happy Brexmas (war is over)
Nigel Farage has declared the “war is over” on Brexit, as he called the deal “not perfect” but “progress”.
Mr Farage told TalkRadio: “[Boris] has done what he said he’d do on the big picture. I suspect on some of the detail, such as we’ll be back in charge of our fisheries, history may judge some of those aspects a little more harshly.
“But on the big stuff, the war is over; it has gone on for decades in this country… and now we’re out, and arguably with a new treaty that’s a bit closer to a partnership agreement. It’s not perfect, but goodness me it’s still progress.“
Cat among pigeons as Brexit deal delayed
Larry the cat lays into an early Christmas lunch outside Downing Street this morning – FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
As the nation awaited an update on the post-Brexit trade deal, it was Downing Street’s Larry the cat who grabbed the attention of politics watchers as he pounced on a pigeon.
The tabby stalked the bird outside the Prime Minister’s official residence on Thursday as members of the Press – who were waiting to hear from Boris Johnson – watched on with their cameras poised.
Despite Larry catching his unsuspecting victim, the pigeon managed to fly off seemingly unharmed after a brief scuffle.
The drama came as the Government continued to negotiate on a UK-European Union trade deal amid widespread expectation that an agreement is imminent.
Officially known as the chief mouser, Larry was rehomed from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in 2011, and was said to have a “strong predatory drive”.
Former Conservative prime minister David Cameron expressed his fondness for the animal, saying he would make a “great addition” to the Number 10 team at the time.
Welsh farmers welcome imminent Brexit deal
Welsh farmers and food producers have welcomed news that an agreement on a trade deal with the EU is imminent.
Glyn Roberts, President of the Farmers Union of Wales said: “The consequences of a no deal for farming and other industries would be catastrophic, so it was always hoped that common sense would prevail. However, there was always a risk that refusals to compromise on one or other side could lead to the worst-case scenario.”
Mr Roberts also welcomed the EU’s formal listing of the UK as a “third country” – a move which is essential in terms of allowing Welsh food exports to the EU.
“However, our access to the EU market, which is the destination for three-quarters of Welsh food and drink exports, will still face significant barriers after December 31, with non-tariff barrier costs expected to rise by 4 per cent to 8 per cent,” he said.
Last minute ‘hitch’ holds up announcement
Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign affairs minister said there appears to be “some sort of last-minute hitch” in the Brexit talks.
Mr Coveney told RTE Radio that Boris Johnson had been due to hold a news conference earlier, which has not yet happened.
Downing Street has yet to announce any details of a press conference to the media.
David Davis suggests Brexiteers will back deal
David Davis, the former Brexit Secretary and key member of the European Research Group, has said he is less worried about the specific quantities of fish being caught by the UK and EU in British waters, than the fact the UK will be in control after five and a half years.
There will be a “fish transition period” of five and a half years, after which there will be annual negotiations run by the UK.
Mr Davis is one of the Tory party’s leading Brexiteers, and his apparent support for the fishing arrangement suggests the ERG may be inclined to support Mr Johnson’s agreement.
Good signs for Number 10. Former Brexit Secretary David Davis tells @LBC he is not too bothered about the repatriation values of fish but rather that end of the fish transition period (I can’t think of a better name right now), the UK is in control of its waters.
— Theo Usherwood (@theousherwood) December 24, 2020
Dover and Calais to remain open over Christmas after border chaos
In travel news, cross channel ferries and trains are to run through Christmas Day to help end the lorry chaos in Kent after the British and French Governments struck a deal to cancel the festive break.
Charles Hymas, Home Affairs Editor, reports that Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary has said the UK-French border at Eurotunnel, Dover and Calais would remain open throughout Christmas “in order to help hauliers & citizens return home as soon as possible.”
Some 10,000 hauliers are stranded in Kent and elsewhere in the UK waiting to have their 30-minute Covid tests so that they can travel to France under a separate UK-French deal on Tuesday to end France’s 48 hour travel ban.
Read more here.
Government claims victory in Brexit negotiations
Mr Johnson will claim the UK won victories on several key issues – Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street
We have already heard from EU sources, who said the UK had made significant concessions over fishing, among other issues.
But the UK Government appears to have hit back, with a “scorecard” showing that the EU made more compromises.
The Guido Fawkes political blog has published what it claims is an internal Government analysis of the deal, showing the UK winning negotiations on 43 per cent of issues, versus 17 per cent for the EU and 40 per cent “mutual compromise”.
It will be important for Downing Street to control the narrative on the deal now to head off criticism from inside the Conservative Party on the detail of the agreement.
The Government’s document points to:
No role for the European Court of Justice in the UK
Tariff- and quota-free trade between the UK and the bloc
A level playing field on standards of goods that does not rely on EU law
Remainers not happy about Brexit deal
Despite the general good feeling about the Brexit deal this morning, committed Remainers are keen to point out that they would have preferred to stay in the EU anyway.
Here is Mike Gapes, a former Labour MP and Independent Group defector.
This is no triumph. The best deal was to stay in the EU. Or failing that to at least keep the full benefits of the Single Market. Any other deal will be worse than what we have had. The UK will be poorer and less influential country outside the EU and it’s Single Market.
— Mike Gapes (@MikeGapes) December 23, 2020
Barclays boss welcomes ‘rabbit from the hat’ trade deal
Sir Ian Cheshire, the chairman of Barclays UK, said a trade deal with the EU would bring clarity to business. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This was pure politics.
“It was always the last minute sort of rabbit from the hat.
“And I’m very glad that it appears we can carry on with… our most important trading relationship.
“And business can plan. I think that’s been the overriding issue for businesses over the last two years. They are occasionally accused of not being ready, and the question is – ready for what?
“At least now we have got clarity and we can get on.”
Hilary Benn: Parliament will approve this Brexit deal
There is little doubt that Parliament will approve the Brexit deal when it is put to Parliament before the end of the transition period.
It is likely MPs and peers will be recalled around December 30, and the Government has said it plans to pass it in Parliament in one day.
Here Hilary Benn, the chair of the Brexit select committee, told the BBC there was “no doubt” MPs would assent.
It is possible some Tory Brexiteers will vote against the deal, but with an 84-seat majority in the House of Commons and the agreement of the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, Mr Johnson looks set for a comfortable victory.
Simon Coveney: Fishing is ‘agreed in principle’
Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister, has said fishing is agreed in principle in the EU Brexit deal but there are still discussions on the details.
Negotiators are understood to be haggling over individual species and how many can be caught.
A planned briefing in Brussels on fish at 8.30am has been cancelled as the talks continue.
Boris Johnson “had been due to hold a news conference around now. That hasn’t happened. So there is some sort of last-minute hitch” related to “small text” of a fisheries agreement, Mr Coveney told Ireland’s RTE radio.
“I had hoped to be talking to you this morning in parallel with big announcements happening in both London and Brussels, but we still expect those later on today.”
Markets soar amid hopes of Brexit deal this morning
Shares in London have opened in the green amid hopes that a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union could be announced later on Thursday. The FTSE 100 rose by 20 points to 6,516, a rise of 0.3 per cent, just after markets opened at 8am.
The pound had already risen by around 0.6 per cent against the dollar before markets opened in London, and 0.4 per cent against the euro. It gave back a little of those gains after markets opened.
Boris Johnson’s famous column urges country to leave EU
Boris Johnson was one of the leading figures in the Vote Leave campaign – OLI SCARFF/AFP
More than four and a half years after backing Brexit publicly for the first time, the Prime Minister is just hours away from securing a deal with the EU that will define the UK’s relationship with the bloc for decades.
It was in The Telegraph in 2016 that Mr Johnson announced he was a Eurosceptic – and you can read his famous column here.
“If the “Leave” side wins, it will indeed be necessary to negotiate a large number of trade deals at great speed,” Mr Johnson wrote.
“But why should that be impossible? We have become so used to Nanny in Brussels that we have become infantilised, incapable of imagining an independent future. We used to run the biggest empire the world has ever seen, and with a much smaller domestic population and a relatively tiny Civil Service.
“Are we really unable to do trade deals? We will have at least two years in which the existing treaties will be in force.”
Ministers on ‘resignation watch’ over deal
At least two Government ministers are on resignation watch this morning after they signalled they were unhappy with the detail of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, Politico reports.
The Prime Minister spoke to his Cabinet last night and encouraged them to sell the deal when it was announced.
Some hard line Eurosceptic ministers may object to UK concessions on fish. French sources claim UK negotiators backtracked significantly in the last 48 hours of the talks on fishing – one of the major sticking points in negotiations.
Sir Bill cash will convene Star Chamber this week – David Rose
The authoritative Eurosceptic position will be decided this week when the European Research Group of MPs convene their “Star Chamber” of lawyers to trawl through the detail.
Star Chamber was first convened to assess Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, and is chaired by Sir Bill Cash, a veteran Eurosceptic MP.
Why did the Brexit deal stall at the very last minute?
Eagle-eyed Brexit watchers were hoping the trade deal would be signed and announced last night, and for a moment it seemed like it might happen.
Then, a delivery driver turned up at the European Commission with pizzas for the negotiators, and it no longer felt so close.
Our Brussels Correspondent, James Crisp, explains what caused the late night delay.
What will happen this morning?
Mr Johnson and VDL are speaking again this morning – Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street
In news that will surprise absolutely no one who has been following Brexit for the last four years, the timings this morning are a bit fluid.
We know that the deal is finished and will be signed at some point in the next couple of hours, following a call between Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen.
Downing Street sources last night suggested a press conference with the Prime Minister could be as early as 7am, but it now seems that has been pushed back until at least 8am – but probably later.
The latest call between Mr Johnson and the EU Commission president follows four phone calls yesterday, in which the pair thrashed out some of the remaining obstacles to a deal.
How we got to this point
It has taken us four years to get to this point. Here we look at the key moments during that period.
What the papers say
Brexit is dominating the front pages this morning – with the consensus being that a deal has indeed been done.
So when will it happen?
Nothing is certain at this stage, but the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg believes Boris Johnson will speak to Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, at about 7am, followed by a press conference at 8am.
Morning – I hope you are asleep, especially as it’s Christmas Eve. If you are awake, expect PM a to talk to EU chief at about 7am UK time now with a press conference to follow at about 8
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) December 24, 2020
What’s in the deal?
The devil is always in the detail – and James Crisp and Gordon Rayner have been looking at what concessions may have been made.
The Brexit trade deal was more than 95 per cent done for weeks before reports of “white smoke” from the negotiators in Brussels on Wednesday night.
Disagreements over the three major sticking points of fishing rights, level playing field guarantees and the deal’s enforcement proved far more difficult for the two sides to agree.
Boris Johnson briefs his Cabinet – No 10 Downing Street
And with “nothing agreed until everything is agreed”, that meant the agreement wasn’t done at all.
The issues were vital for both sides. The EU wanted guarantees that UK companies would not undercut its standards in what it said would be unfair competition with its businesses.
Britain could not sign up to any deal that tied any future government’s ability to split from EU rules.
Read more: What has been agreed, and what happens next?
Are we finally going to get a deal?
We are finally expecting a Brexit deal to be announced this morning and, while this has been said before, this time it might actually happen.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson led a late-night call with Cabinet ministers to update them on the situation.
European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer suggested an announcement could come early today.
“Work will continue throughout the night,” he said shortly after midnight.
“Grabbing some sleep is recommended to all Brexit-watchers at this point. It will hopefully be an early start tomorrow morning…”
The UK side expected talks over the legal text of the deal – reportedly around 2,000 pages long – to continue into the early hours.
Here is The Telegraph’s front page this morning.