We await the legal text. In the meantime, the UK has published a 34 page summary explainer – here.
A couple of things to notice –
Part 2 Heading 1
(1) a specific Annex on medicinal products (page 9) – This Annex aims to facilitate availability of medicines, promote public health and protect high levels of consumer and environmental protection in respect of medicinal products. It provides for mutual recognition of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) inspections and certificates, meaning that manufacturing facilities do not need to undergo separate UK and EU inspections, as well as ongoing co-operation.
(2) a specific Annex on chemicals (page 9) – The Annex seeks to facilitate trade in chemicals, ensure high levels of environmental and health protection and provides for cooperation between authorities. It includes joint commitments to comprehensive implementation of international classification and labelling rules as well as commitments to ongoing cooperation and information exchange.
(3) unsurprisingly, the agreement has a chapter on SPS (pages 9 and 10 summarise) – The Chapter includes bespoke arrangements for the UK and the EU to hold regular, joint reviews of their respective SPS border controls. The aim of these reviews is to see if each Party can further facilitate trade without compromising biosecurity.
(4) Title II Chapter 4 sets out commitments for business mobility – for example (page 12) – The Parties have also agreed commitments on length of stay that broadly reflect the outcome reached in the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement. This includes the ability for UK short-term business visitors to travel to the EU for 90 days in any 180-day month period. The Parties have also agreed not to impose work permits on business visitors for establishment purposes.
(5) Title II Chapter 5 Regulatory Framework – Section 2 (page 13) – The UK and the EU have agreed a framework for the recognition of qualifications between the Parties which is based on the EU’s recent FTA agreements. It makes improvements on those agreements, which are designed to make the system more flexible and easier for regulatory authorities to use.
This approach will allow the UK and its regulators to maintain standards of professional competence. From early 2021, the government will provide help and guidance to UK regulatory authorities and professional bodies to help them benefit from these provisions as well as other recognition paths.
The Agreement clarifies that the provisions on professional qualifications are without prejudice to alternative arrangements that the UK may agree with the EU, allowing for improved mechanisms to be agreed in future. Agreements will be negotiated on a profession-by-profession basis.
Note – the EU has made it clear they rejected mutual recognition of professional qualifications.
(6) Title II Chapter 5 – Section 7 Legal Services (page 14) – The Agreement includes ground-breaking provisions on legal services that go beyond what the EU has included in any other FTA to date. These measures will improve the clarity and certainty of market access for UK lawyers. The Agreement will give UK solicitors, barristers and advocates the right to advise their clients across the EU on UK and public international law using their home professional titles, except where EU Member States have placed specific limits on this activity.
(7) Title XI Chapter 6 Labour and social standards (page 19) – The Agreement includes reciprocal commitments not to reduce the level of protection for workers or fail to enforce employment rights in a manner that has an effect on trade. This is very much in line with similar “non-regression” clauses in other FTAs and with international norms. The provisions are clear that both Parties have the freedom and ability to make their own decisions on how they regulate – meaning that retained EU law will not have a special place on the UK’s statute books. This Chapter is not subject to the Agreement’s main dispute resolution mechanism but will instead be governed by a bespoke Panel of Experts procedure.
(8) Title XI Chapter 7 Environment and Climate (pages 19 and 20) – In a similar way, the Agreement includes reciprocal commitments not to reduce the level of environmental or climate protection or fail to enforce its laws in a manner that has an effect on trade. This includes reciprocal commitments to cross-economy greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. The Agreement gives both Parties the freedom to set their own climate and environmental policies in the way most appropriate to achieve our world- leading domestic aims. The domestic supervisory bodies of the UK and EU will cooperate to ensure effective enforcement of their respective environmental and climate laws. Once again, this chapter is not subject to the Agreement’s main dispute resolution mechanism but will instead be governed by a bespoke Panel of Experts procedure.
The Agreement makes clear both parties will have their own effective systems of carbon pricing in place to help fulfil our respective climate goals. The Parties have agreed to cooperate on carbon pricing in future and consider linking their respective systems, although they are not under any obligation to do so.
Part 2 Heading Three Road Transport
(9) Title I (page 22) – The Agreement also sets out the standards to which operators must adhere when undertaking international journeys between the UK and the EU. These standards only apply to international journeys and do not affect the UK’s ability to regulate the domestic market. These standards for the international carriage of goods broadly reflect the standards to which UK operators are already subject when operating internationally, with some bespoke standards aimed at ensuring greater road safety and effective regulation. These standards include restrictions on driver hours, requirements about professional qualifications and tachographs and vehicle weight and dimension limits. There is a tailored mechanism to manage differences in national regulations in these areas in the unlikely event that they emerge. The ultimate safeguard in the case of real difficulties is that either side may terminate this Heading.