Businesses, fishermen and Irish politicians have condemned the “decisive step” deal agreed between Britain and the European Union. Chief negotiators David Davis and Michel Barnier announced following lengthy talks that they had agreed on a “large part” of the agreement designed to lead to an “orderly withdrawal” of Britain from the EU.
The latest deal on a 21-month transitional agreement for a British exit met with a storm of protests from Brexiteers after David lauded it as “significant”, with 75% of the ultimate target having now been met. In spite of criticism, the pound rose to its highest level for three weeks following the deal.
Food and Drink Federation chief executive Ian Wright was one of the business leaders who said they were “very perturbed” by the terms of the deal which they argued was too short a period for companies to make appropriate arrangements. He said:” we would have preferred two years. “Truthfully there is no chance of us reaching a deal (for withdrawal) if, for example we have not already reached agreement on customs checks and other issues.”
What was seen as a climbdown over the border with Northern Ireland attracted serious criticism from politicians both sides of the border. In a statement from Number 10 last month Theresa May said that no British Prime Minister could possibly agree to a draft “backstop” concession forwarded by the EU. The proposal would effectively have seen Britain stay as part of the single market. It has now retreated to a position it seemed to accept in December, that a backstop is acceptable, as long as technological and legal alternatives are pursued.
Workers in the UK fishing industry were also outraged at the fact that they would be merely consulted during the transition period rather than benefit from the status quo. In contrast to recent assurances from environment secretary Michael Gove, fishermen would have to accept EU rules during the transition period up to 31 December 2020.