Brexit deal "fair, balanced and right": Von der Leyen

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters: "It was a long and winding road. But we have got a good deal to show for it. It is fair, it is a balanced deal, and it is the right and responsible thing to do for both sides."

While the last-minute deal prevents the most acrimonious ending to the saga on January 1, the United Kingdom is set for a much more distant relationship with its biggest trade partner than almost anyone expected at the time of the 2016 referendum.

A deal had seemed imminent for almost a day, until haggling over just how much fish EU boats should be able to catch in British waters delayed the announcement of one of the most important trade deals in recent European history.

The UK formally left the EU on January 31 but has since been in a transition period under which rules on trade, travel and business remained unchanged until the end of this year.