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Rishi Sunak hails Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal

Rishi Sunak has congratulated Boris Johnson on securing the post-Brexit trade deal with the EU in what he hailed an ‘enormously unifying moment for our country’.

The Chancellor, who was accused of being ‘absent’ in the run up to Christmas, said the agreement was a good deal for British families, businesses and jobs.

He also addressed concerns over the future of financial services, saying Brexit would offer ‘a chance to do things differently’ in the City of London after no agreement was reached for ‘equivalence’ on selling financial services into the single market.

Speaking from Richmond, Yorkshire, Mr Sunak said: ‘I think this deal represents one of the most comprehensive free trade agreements ever signed and it’s a good deal for British families, businesses and jobs.

‘It gives us a fantastic platform to go forward, maintain tariff-free access to European markets but also capitalise on new opportunities.’ 

But former Irish PM Leo Varadkar warned that the UK’s access to the European market is ‘not unconditional’ and they must continue to follow some EU rules.

Former Irish PM Leo Varadkar warned that the UK’s access to the European market is ‘not unconditional’ and they must continue to follow some EU rules. Rishi Sunak: Brexit deal is a ‘unifying moment’ for the UK

The Tanaiste told Newstalk: ‘It does still give them access to the European single market, a market of 400 million people, the biggest and wealthiest market in the world.

‘They don’t have to pay tariffs or quotas either which is advantageous to them. But it’s not unconditional. So what they have agreed to is what we call a level playing field.

‘They have agreed to a non-regression clause in all but name, so we said you can only have access to the market if you don’t reduce your standards when it comes to workers’ rights, the environment, health and safety, product standards – all of those things.

‘If they do reduce their standards or don’t keep with our standards then that access to our market could be threatened.’

But analysis by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think tank has said the bar for proof of breaches of the ‘level playing field’ to safeguard the issues is so high that it will be rarely enforced. 

Rishi Sunak has congratulated Boris Johnson on securing the post-Brexit trade deal with the EU in what he hailed an 'enormously unifying moment for our country'

Rishi Sunak has congratulated Boris Johnson on securing the post-Brexit trade deal with the EU in what he hailed an ‘enormously unifying moment for our country’

Although negotiations on the deal continued into the morning on Christmas Eve, Mr Sunak left London for his northern constituency ahead of the capital entering Tier 4 restrictions on Sunday, December 20. Pictured: Mr Sunak appears in a video call with Boris Johnson as the deal is agreed

Although negotiations on the deal continued into the morning on Christmas Eve, Mr Sunak left London for his northern constituency ahead of the capital entering Tier 4 restrictions on Sunday, December 20. Pictured: Mr Sunak appears in a video call with Boris Johnson as the deal is agreed

Marley Morris, a director focusing on trade and EU relations, warned that the commitment in the deal not to decrease current standards in a bid to gain an unfair competitive advantage is ‘considerably weaker than expected’ and sets ‘a very high bar for proof’.

The Prime Minister has insisted that the UK will not regress on the issues and instead has vowed to use the ‘legislative and regulatory freedoms to deliver for people who felt left behind’.

The trade agreement states that the UK will need to follow EU rules on goods that in place on December 31 as part of a ‘non-regression’ clause.

Rishi Sunak also addressed the impact of the trade deal with the EU on the financial services industry, saying: ‘Our financial services industry is something we should be enormously proud of.

‘It’s something we are globally best in class at, contributes an enormous amount to our economy, employs over a million people across the country, not just in the City of London.

‘I made a statement about the future of our financial services industry a little while ago, talking about our future, making sure that this remains the most competitive, dynamic place to do business anywhere in the world.

‘That we remain open to creating new relationships with lots of different trading partners – for example, Switzerland most recently – but also that we remain the most technologically advanced place to conduct financial services.

‘I think that ambitious vision was warmly welcomed by various stakeholders.

After arriving in Richmond, which is in Tier 2, he visited a local hospital on Monday - the same day that the Tier 4 restrictions were extended to pother parts of England

After arriving in Richmond, which is in Tier 2, he visited a local hospital on Monday – the same day that the Tier 4 restrictions were extended to pother parts of England

‘Now that we’ve left the European Union we can do things a bit differently and we’re embarking on that journey, for example, examining how we make the City of London the most attractive place to list new companies anywhere in the world.

‘But this deal also provides reassurance because there’s a stable, regulatory co-operative framework mentioned in the deal which I think will give people that reassurance that we will remain in close dialogue with our European partners.’

Deal risks eroding workers rights, analysis warns

Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU leaves workers’ rights and environmental protections at risk of erosion and will slow the economic recovery, an early analysis has warned.

The IPPR think tank’s assessment, published on Sunday, says that the bar for proof of breaches of the ‘level playing field’ to safeguard the issues is so high that it will be rarely enforced.

The Prime Minister has insisted that the UK will not regress on the issues and instead has vowed to use the ‘legislative and regulatory freedoms to deliver for people who felt left behind’. 

Marley Morris, a director focusing on trade and EU relations, warned that the commitment in the deal not to decrease current standards in a bid to gain an unfair competitive advantage is ‘considerably weaker than expected’ and sets ‘a very high bar for proof’.

‘Given it is notoriously difficult to prove that any lowering of protections affects trade or investment, the deal is unlikely to prevent the UK Government from weakening EU-derived labour and environmental policies if it so chooses,’ his report says.

He later added: ‘This leaves protections for workers, climate and the environment at serious risk of being eroded.’ 

Referring to the opposition the deal has faced since its unveiling, he added: ‘I think there was always going to be people who want to reopen the debates of four years ago but I don’t think that would be the right thing to do.

‘I actually think this deal can represent an enormously unifying moment for our country and bring people together after the divisions of the past few years.

‘For those who voted to leave, this deal means that we will have the freedom that people sought, control of our laws, our borders, our trade.

‘But for those who were anxious about the economic implications of leaving they should be enormously reassured by the comprehensive nature of this free trade agreement, ensuring tariff-free, quota-free access for British businesses to the European market, ensuring that close economic partnership and crucially protecting British jobs.’

The Chancellor swapped Downing Street for his Richmond constituency 240 miles away last Friday afternoon, the day before Boris Johnson announced sweeping new curbs on the city. 

He has continued to take part in cabinet meetings virtually, and appeared in photos of a video call with Boris Johnson as he revealed a deal had been struck.

He will now have to spend all of Christmas away from Downing Street, due to the bar on travelling in and out of Tier 4 areas like London implemented by the Prime Minister.

After arriving in his constituency, which is in Tier 2, he visited a local hospital on Monday – the same day that the Tier 4 restrictions were extended to pother parts of England.

Mr Sunak, 40, lives with his family in a magnificent Georgian manor house in the small village of Kirby Sigston, just outside Northallerton in North Yorkshire. 

A Labour spokesman criticised his absence in recent days, saying: ‘It’s been days since the Prime Minister announced new restrictions and still no word from the Chancellor.

‘Rishi Sunak was happy to put his name all over government policy when it suited him, but when the going gets tough he’s totally absent. That’s one reason why we’ve had the worst downturn of any major economy.’

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