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Brexit Agreement Moves To British, EU Parliaments For Approval


Right. So on Christmas Eve, Britain and the European Union finally finalized their divorce.


That's right. They agreed on the terms of a trade deal that's supposed to take effect after January 1. It still has to be approved by the British and EU parliaments, but the odds look good there. Here's Ursula von der Leyen. She's the president of the European Commission.


URSULA VON DER LEYEN: It was a long and winding road, but we have got a good deal to show for it. It is fair. It is a balanced deal, and it is the right and responsible thing to do for both sides.

GREENE: You know, we talked a lot about reaction to all of this from Britain. Let's get the view from Europe this morning. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley is based in Paris and joins us. Hi, Eleanor.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, guys. Joyeux Noel.

GREENE: Oh, merry Christmas to you.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you.

GREENE: Are Europeans looking at this as some kind of Christmas present?

BEARDSLEY: Oh, yes. They are so tired of the Brexit saga, 4 1/2 years on. And most of all, this is the chance to move on, to deal with other problems. You know, everyone was talking about, this is the deal that averts Britain crashing out on December 31. But now they're saying it's a lot more than that. You know, both sides are saying it's a good deal, and both sides are emphasizing the still very close relationship of these European nations - their friendship, their partnership. Here's von der Leyen again, followed by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking.


VON DER LEYEN: The United Kingdom is a third country, but it remains a trusted partner. We are long-standing allies. We share the same value and interests.

PRIME MINISTER BORIS JOHNSON: We will be your friend, your ally, your supporter and indeed, never let it be forgotten, your No. 1 market.

BEARDSLEY: So David, this morning, the British press is saying happy Brexmas, and the French press is actually hailing the negotiators and their stamina. French newspaper Le Monde said after four years of psychodrama, there's a deal. And it called Boris Johnson an unsinkable political machine.

GREENE: I know there's a lot of detail in this very long agreement, but can you talk a little bit about what's covered here and what's not?

BEARDSLEY: Yeah, the biggest thing about it is that there are going to be no tariffs and quotas, and that's really huge. But it deals with goods, but it doesn't talk about services. And about 80% of British exports to the continent are services. There will still be customs checks. And I can tell you that could pose a problem. This morning, the European affairs minister was on the radio talking about how France had put on the job 1,500 new customs officials and veterinarians who will be able to stop cargo. I was just up in the border of Calais, and there's a lot of horses coming through and medicines. Those kinds of things can be checked now. And, you know, even if it's, like, a minute, 2-minute stop for something, if you've got thousands of trucks a day, that could lead to backups.

GREENE: Well, what kind of impact are we really expecting on both sides of the channel as we move forward from this?

BEARDSLEY: Well, British economists say, actually, the GDP in the U.K. will be 6% less over the next decade if it had stayed in. And the Europeans are saying it's not going to be much of an effect. You know, there's a 450 million market here compared to 60 million something.

GREENE: I guess we should say, too, I mean, Britain is about to feel even more isolated because of these travel restrictions that are going on with this new coronavirus variant.

BEARDSLEY: Absolutely. The U.S. government says it now requires all airline passengers from Britain to get a COVID test 72 hours before. That's a turnaround. The Trump administration said it wasn't going to do that before. And remember, just days ago, we saw thousands of trucks stuck in Britain. So Britain looks very alone and fragile. And this is also showing what could happen if there are backups on the border.

GREENE: NPR's Eleanor Beardsley. Eleanor, thank you so much.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.