Boris Johnson: Brexit deal is ‘glad tidings of great joy’
The EU chief negotiator said an all-or-nothing approach adopted by the UK, especially on fisheries, almost caused negotiations to break down despite a breakthrough being achieved. When asked whether he was happy that an agreement was reached between the UK and the EU, Mr Barnier told French daily newspaper Le Figaro said he had mixed feelings.
He added: “Yes and no! Can you be happy with a divorce? I, of course, have the feeling of a mission accomplished, with an exceptional team.
“First, there was the withdrawal treaty signed at the end of 2019, then this 1,200-page text on the future relationship.”
But Mr Barnier said he experienced a “form of bitterness” as the UK left the EU.
He added: “We are losing a country of 67 million people, with a dynamic defence, foreign policy and economy.
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“It is a failure for the EU. As for the United Kingdom, it will find itself alone in the global competition against the United States and China, which are continental states, against Russia and others.
“Brexit is a mutual weakening.”
When asked whether he thought a deal was “impossible”, Mr Barnier said the talks “had been on the verge of breaking up several times.”
He said: “In London a month ago, then in Brussels, more recently, during a phone call between Ursula von der Leyen and Boris Johnson.
“In the spring I will recount these four extraordinary years in a journal book.”
It comes as Boris Johnson said leaving the European Union’s trading arrangements offers the chance to “transform our country”.
He said the “great new deal” with the EU secured on Christmas Eve honours the “most basic promises” of the 2016 referendum and meant the UK has “taken back control of our money, our laws and our waters”.
The EU had provided the UK with a “safe European home” during the 1970s, but the country has now “changed out of all recognition” with global perspectives, he stressed yesterday.
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In a sign that the UK will break away from the EU rules it inherited, Mr Johnson continued: “We need the Brexit-given chance to turbocharge those sectors in which we excel, to do things differently and to do them better.
Despite Mr Johnson’s gloating about the success of the deal, Mr Barnier stressed the discussions were “difficult from start to finish.”
He added: “The British have experienced diplomats who never give up and always ask for more.”
“They wanted “the best of both worlds.”
The UK left the Bloc at 11pm on New Year’s Eve when the Prime Minister was understood to have marked the occasion with his family in Downing Street.
It means under the new arrangements, freedom of movement rights end and EU laws and regulations will cease to apply to the UK.
However, Northern Ireland Protocol means Northern Ireland remains in the EU single market for goods and will apply EU customs rules at its ports, even though the region is still part of the UK customs territory.
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