According to The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), the agreement struck on Christmas Eve has the potential to erode UK workers’ rights and climate and other environmental protections.
The trade deal’s commitments on maintaining fair competition between U.K. and E.U. businesses were notably bleaker than anticipated and would make it difficult to ensure that standards remain up to par. Securing both U.K.’s sovereignty while also ensuring tariff-free trade will be challenging to assert if the U.K. fails to keep up with improved E.U. levels of labour standards or environmental protection.
IPPR highlighted three important benefits from the deal likening the agreement to a no-deal outcome: tariff-free and quota-free trade in goods, continued social security coordination between the U.K. and the E.U., including healthcare coverage, and continued data sharing for security purposes.
Conversely, the new agreed upon process for safeguarding a “level playing field” between U.K. and E.U. businesses after Brexit have been set at such a high bar for proof that U.K. standards can easily be sidelined. Under the agreement, if the U.K. is unable to keep pace with E.U. levels of labour, social or environmental protection and this affects trade or investment, the E.U. could take proportionate measures in response, such as introducing tariffs.
Marley Morris, the IPPR’s associate director for immigration, trade and EU relations, said:
“This thin deal is better than no deal at all, but still creates major trade barriers with our closest neighbor, which will inhibit growth and slow the economic recovery.”