Breakthrough: UK and EU reach post-Brexit trade agreement

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This picture taken on December 9, 2020, shows flags of the Union Jack and the EU ahead of Britain’s Prime Minister’s meeting on post Brexit trade deal with European Commission President, in Brussels. – Britain’s Prime Minister arrives in Brussels on December 9, 2020, with hopes for a post-Brexit trade deal hanging on crisis talks with EU chief. Talks are blocked over the issue of fair competition, with Britain refusing to accept a mechanism that would allow the EU to respond swiftly if UK and EU business rules diverge over time and put European firms at a disadvantage. (Photo by Olivier HOSLET / POOL / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER HOSLET/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

BRUSSELS — Britain and the European Union have struck a provisional free-trade agreement that should avert New Year’s chaos for cross-border commerce and bring a measure of certainty to businesses after years of Brexit turmoil.

The breakthrough on Thursday came after months of tense and often testy negotiations that whittled differences down to three key issues: fair-competition rules, mechanisms for resolving future disputes and fishing rights.

Now comes the race to approve and ratify the deal before the U.K. leaves the EU’s economic structures on Jan. 1.

The British and European parliaments both must hold votes on the agreement. And key aspects of the future relationship between the 27-nation bloc and its former member remain unresolved.

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