EC President von der Leyen: Brexit deal was 'worth fighting for'

24 December 2020, 15:09 | Updated: 24 December 2020, 15:25

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen addresses a media conference on Brexit negotiations
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen addresses a media conference on Brexit negotiations. Picture: PA

By Megan White

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said the Brexit deal was "worth fighting for" after the UK finally agreed a trade deal.

Ms von der Leyen said on Thursday that she felt "quiet satisfaction and relief" after reaching an agreement on post-Brexit trade terms just one week before the end of the transition period.

She told a press conference it would be a "difficult day for some," and, quoting Shakespeare, added: "Parting is such sweet sorrow."

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EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier said "today is a day of relief, but one tinged by some sadness."

Concluding her remarks, Ms von der Leyen said: "It is time to leave Brexit behind. Our future is made in Europe."

Discussing the deal, Ms von der Leyen told the press conference: "First of all, competition in our single market will be fair and remain so.

"The EU rules and standards will be respected. We have effective tools to react if fair competition is distorted and impacts our trade.

"Secondly, we will continue cooperating with the UK in all areas of mutual interest, for example in the field of climate change, energy, security and transport.

"Together, we still achieve more than we do apart.

"And thirdly we have secured five and a half years of predictability for our fishing communities."

She added that "now is the time to turn the page and look to the future," but said the UK "remains a trusted partner".

Ms von der Leyen said: "We are long-standing allies. We share the same values and interests, whether it be the Cop26 summit in Glasgow, or the upcoming UK G7 and Italian G20 presidencies.

"The EU and the UK will stand shoulder to shoulder to deliver on our common global goals."

Ms von der Leyen continued: "Of course, this whole debate has always been about sovereignty.

"But we should cut through the soundbites and ask ourselves what sovereignty actually means in the 21st century.

"It about pooling our strength and speaking together in a world full of great powers.

"In a time of crisis, it is about pulling each other up instead of trying to get back to your feet alone."

She concluded: "At the end of a successful negotiations journey, I normally feel joy.

"But today I only feel quiet satisfaction and - frankly speaking - relief.

"I know this is a difficult day for some.

"To our friends in the UK, I want to say: parting is such sweet sorrow.

"But to use a line from TS Eliot: what we call the beginning is often the end, and to make an end is to make a beginning.

"So to all the Europeans, I say: It is time to leave Brexit behind, our future is made in Europe."

Mr Barnier, who led negotiations for the EU, said: "The clock is no longer ticking. After four years of collective effort and EU unity to preserve peace and stability on the island of Ireland, to protect the citizens and the single market, to build a new partnership with the UK."

He thanked those involved in the process, adding: "This process has engaged so many citizens, businesses, stakeholders and, obviously, so many journalists. Thank you for your patience and your attention.

"Today is a day of relief but tinged too by sadness. As we compare what came before with what lies ahead.

"The UK has chosen to leave the European Union and the single markets, to renounce the benefits and advantages enjoyed by member states, our agreement does not reproduce these rights and benefits, and therefore despite this agreement, there will be real changes in a few days from now.

"As of first of January, real changes for many citizens, and many businesses, and that is the result of Brexit.

"But we have also built a new partnership for the future around four pillars."