European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier gives a statement on the outcome of Brexit next to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Source: Francisco Seco/Pool via Reuters

The Brexit Trade Agreement Is a Fair Deal

“The clock stopped ticking. Today is a day of relief,” E.U. negotiator Michel Barnier said at a news conference in Brussels. “But tinted by some sadness, as we compare what came before with what lies ahead.”

1. The negotiation was difficult, for fundamental reasons.

The United Kingdom wanted from the beginning to fulfill the promises of the Brexiteers (including the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson) and have its cake and eat it. In their rendering of the deal, both parties acknowledged that it was a very difficult negotiation. The devil was in the details, but there were questions of principle that could not be overcome. Even at the last minute, the Prime Minister renegated an agreement he had himself been the proponent of.

2. Reaching fairness was a challenge

In any divorce with a legacy, reaching a fair agreement is an exercise in equilibrium. Boris Johnson's victory speech was a perfect example of a balancing act between pretending that the UK had regained its freedom of decision and the economy would strive.

3. It’s only about goods, not about services: the 300 billion euros question

Source: UK Parliament Report (November 2020)

4. Vigilance is the core of the agreement

An agreement is not a blank cheque. It assumes that parties will be fair play (an English word), but it must provide one form or another of conflict resolution if one of the parties were to conduct or regulate its business in an unfair way. To be fair, this mechanism had to create a forum where both parties have an equal voice. It is the case.

5. What is sovereignty?

The word used many times by Prime Minister Johnson is often a synonym for isolationism. The United Kingdom is more than ever an island. That does not make it a disconnected entity.

CEO at Galileo Global Advisors and Adjunct professor Columbia Law School.