Today's news that a UK and EU post-Brexit trade deal has been agreed comes as a great relief.
Brexit has always meant different things to many of us. It has dominated my working life and that of the majority of the political world for the past five years. During that time I have maintained that we were on a spectrum: very few at either end but most somewhere in the middle who could see both advantages and disadvantages to leaving the EU. The Government have negotiated a deal which aims to maximise the advantages in the best way we can for the country.
Since the referendum, I have called for a future relationship that reflects our friendship and historical ties with the EU. Following a difficult 11 months of negotiations, overcoming the challenges of coronavirus, I am so pleased we have agreed a trade deal with Europe that maximises the advantages in the best way we can for the country.
The deal is the first free trade agreement based on zero tariffs and zero quotas that the EU has ever agreed. Businesses will be able to continue to trade smoothly and people will be able to continue to buy goods from Europe tariff-free. The deal protects the integrity of our internal market and Northern Ireland’s place within it. Northern Ireland will continue to have unfettered access to the rest of the UK market under all circumstances.
The past five years have not been easy and I do hope we can now move forward as a united nation.