What is in the Brexit deal?

The UK's membership of the EU was a hot button issue even before the Brexit referendum and protests from both sides have been a regular reminder of the issue in Modern Britain. Source: Ilovetheeu (via. Wikimedia Commons)

By Hallum Cowell | Deputy Editor

In June 2016 51.9% of the UK voted to leave the European Union. Now, four years and five months later, a deal has been reached. The conditions within the deal will be implemented from January 1, as the UK officially leaves the European Union at the end of 2020.

The deal was agreed on December 24 following months of negotiations. Reportedly the last major issue was regarding fishing rights. But, what’s in the deal and how does it affect the people of both the UK and EU nations?

Immigration and travel

A key factor in the Leave campaign, and in politics the referendum, has been the topic of immigration. As a member state, the UK followed the EU’s policy of freedom of movement, meaning that people could travel freely around EU states without a visa, although they still required a passport. Immigration from member states and Emigration to these same states was made much easier, with no need for a work permit or similar paperwork.

Freedom of movement between the UK and EU has continued over the transition period which began at the start of 2020, however once this year ends so too will freedom of movement.

Under the new deal, The UK will implement a points-based immigration system, similar to the one used in Australia. This means that those hoping to emigrate to the UK will have to meet a number of criteria, each given a points value, and upon meeting the required number of points will be allowed to live and work in the UK. Home Secretary Priti Patel commented on the new system saying, “This simple, effective and flexible system will ensure employers can recruit the skilled workers they need, whilst also encouraging employers to train and invest in the UK’s workforce”.

Those from abroad who want to work, live, or study in the UK will have to apply for an online visa which will cost anywhere from £610 to £1,408. Additionally, applicants will have to pay £624 per year as a health surcharge and prove that they can support themselves financially.

Meanwhile, those who live in the UK will not have to get a visa to visit other EU nations, as long as the visit is under 90 days in a six-month period and for the purposes of tourism. To remain longer for work, study, or business travellers will have to meet the requirements set out by that country. You could have to apply for a visa or work permit. 


The UK will no longer be a member of the Erasmus project, an EU scheme that allowed students from across the EU to spend a semester in another EU nation. The scheme also allowed teachers to train or work abroad. In 2017 over 16,000 UK students took part in the project while around 31,000 EU students came to the UK.

The UK government is planning on implementing their own similar scheme however a report from the House of Lords EU Committee argued that the benefits of Erasmus will be hard to replicate.


Fishing became the major sticking point of the negotiation –  it was reportedly one of the reasons that the agreement on the deal was delayed up until Christmas eve. For the near future, the UK will gradually be able to fish more from EU waters over the next five and a half years. Once that period is over the UK and EU have agreed to annual negotiations over who can fish where, and how much they can fish.

This new agreement does away with the old Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which enforced that every EU nation’s fishing business had equal access to European waters. Each year each EU nation meets to discuss fishing quotas, how much fish each nation is allowed to harvest from the ocean.

Fishing made up only 0.02% of the UKs economy in 2019, yet it was a key selling point of the Leave campaign in 2016 to regain control of the UK’s waters.

This current agreement however seems to have left fishermen wanting more, with the Scottish Fishing Federation saying that the deal does not go give the UK enough control over their waters.


When in the European Union, states operate under a single market. This means that goods can be traded over borders without any additional tariffs or taxes; for example, a business from Paris could buy goods from Berlin without any additional costs applied because they bought the goods from a different country.

In the new UK-EU agreement there will continue to be no tariffs on goods, the UK will however leave the single market.

There will be new bureaucracy as well for goods coming in and out of the UK, new checks, including safety and customs declarations, will be implemented.

Financial services are however not going to have as smooth a transition as those trading goods. Under the new rules business exchanging services will need to comply with each EU nations rules individually, rather than complying with overall EU law. Those in the UK looking for work in the EU will also now need to make sure that their qualifications are recognised in each individual EU state rather than recognised by the EU as a whole.  

The future relationship

From January 1, these changes come into place. While it may be tempting to believe that the Brexit saga- a saga which brought down two Prime Ministers and led to the rise and fall of political parties and ideas – is at an end, it seems far from over. Not only will the effects of this deal be felt for decades to come but it seems likely that negotiations with the EU and UK will also continue as new political and economic crises arise. Trade deals will also have to be negotiated with other world nations, now that the UK is no longer subject to deals made by the EU. Meanwhile the lives of many in the UK will change, whether in minor or major ways. Time will tell if these changes are for the better or worse. 

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