TCA: the New UK-EU Relationship Framework

  • 02/02/2021
  • 1 min reading time
UK-EU relationship
Paul Clark during the EUKIT talk. / Photo: ESCI-UPF

EUKIT, the ESCI-UPF Jean Monnet Module on “Knowledge and Innovation for the European Trade Challenges” organized the talk “The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. What now?” with Paul Clark to speak about the Brexit deal signed last December and the impact on the UK and the EU trade relationship.

Paul Clark is the Director of Trade and Investment of British Consulate-General in Barcelona. He has been a recurrent speaker at ESCI-UPF since the celebration of the Brexit referendum held in 2016. This time, he accepted the invitation to talk about the brand-new Trade and Cooperation Agreement and the new phase in the UK and the EU relationship.

As Clark explained, the negotiations were tough. During the first three years after the referendum, the negotiations were focused on the leaving terms for the UK. The recent negotiation last year was intended to design the future relationship between the UK and the EU. It started around March and lasted until the end of December, and was a huge effort from both sides (for the British side, it directly involved about 450 people). Finally, the agreement was reached on 24th December, on Christmas Eve, and was celebrated almost like a Christmas present, Clark said.

The British diplomat highlighted that the deal reached is a Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), not just an FTA, and it is built upon three pillars. On one hand, is a free trade agreement with ambitious cooperation on economic, social, environmental and fisheries issues. On the other hand, the TCA also represents a close partnership on citizen’s security as well as an overarching governance framework. For all of these reasons, the TCA goes beyond traditional free trade agreements.

Later on, Clark expounded in detail some of the hotspots of the agreement. Clark mentioned the Northern Ireland border issue, the definition of a level playing field that does not undermine the other part, and the fisheries quotas. He also explained some of the deal benefits, such as the zero tariffs and quotas on all goods that comply with the appropriate rules of origin or the considerable number of provisions to continue facilitating mobility. Nonetheless, the diplomat pointed out that “you do not get full frictionless market access that you would as if you were a member of the EU club”.

To conclude, Clark underlined that the TCA is not a deal that lasts forever, but a framework for future cooperation. Although Brexit was seen as a protectionist movement, he also mentioned that one of the main reasons for voting to leave was to regain control of the UK’s trade policy. So this new chapter for the UK is a great opportunity to rebuild its trade and economic partnerships network.

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