Negotiators from the European Union and the United Kingdom reached an agreement in Brussels on Thursday afternoon on the conditions detailing their future relationship that will finally end the possibility of a hard Brexit on December 31,

On that day the British cease to be part of the community after more than four decades.

“This agreement allows the start of a new relationship between the UK and the EU. The one we have always wanted: A prosperous trade and economic relationship between a sovereign UK and our European partners and friends,” said a spokesman for the British Government after announcing the deal.

The pact will ultimately be less ambitious than the European Union wanted, but it will allow a commercial relationship without quotas or tariffs on condition that London assumes equal rules on competition and other safeguards.

The announcement comes just one week before the United Kingdom definitively leaves the Common Market and the Customs Union, but it must still be examined by the Member States – they will do so in the coming days and then launch the written procedure necessary for its adoption.

It will also need the approval of the plenary session of the European Parliament before it can be brought into force.

However, the parties are examining legal ways so that the new trade and association agreement can be put into practice on a “provisional” basis as early as 1 January to avoid a disorderly disconnection.

London and Brussels began formal negotiations last February but the strong differences between the two saw little progress until a few weeks ago, when the urgency and risk of the relationship falling apart accelerated the talks.

EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier says “today is a day of relief, but tinged by some sadness, as we compare what came before with what lies ahead”

“We have finally found an agreement. It was a long and winding road but we have got a good deal to show for it”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says “it is fair, it is a balanced deal and it is the right and responsible thing to do”