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22nd Jan 2021

EU prepares to ratify post-Brexit trade deal

  • EU ambassadors already met on 25 December in Brussels to have a look at the final version of the deal agreed by the UK and EU negotiators (Photo: Council of the European Union)

The EU machinery has started the process of approving the EU-UK trade deal, after it was agreed by negotiators on the afternoon of Christmas Eve last week.

EU ambassadors of the 27 member states are meeting in Brussels on Monday (28 December) and are expected to agree to provisionally apply the agreement.

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The EU Commission proposed to apply the deal until 28 February 2021 as a first step.

It means the accord can come into force on 1 January, when the transition period ends and the UK severs all ties with the EU, although the European Parliament still needs to give its own green light early next year.

The parliament's coordination group on Brexit will also meet on Monday.

The group's head, German centre-right MEP David McAllister, who also chairs the parliament's foreign affairs committee, said the "agreement must be waterproof and secure the interests of the EU, our citizens and businesses".

Parliament president David Sassoli will also convene a meeting with political group leaders, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, and EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Monday.

The parliament has been edgy, as last-minute conclusion of the deal has not allowed enough time for MEPs to study the agreement in detail before it becomes provisionally applicable.

"The parliament regrets that the duration of the negotiations and the last-minute nature of the agreement does not allow for proper parliamentary scrutiny before the end of the year," Sassoli said in a statement.

However, he added: "The parliament is now ready to react responsibly in order to minimise disruption to citizens and business and prevent the chaos and negative consequences of a no-deal scenario".

As a last step on the EU side, the council of member states must adopt the decision on the conclusion of the agreement after the parliament's consent.

The commission has said it views the agreement as an EU-only treaty, meaning it does not require ratification by member states' parliaments or regional assemblies.

UK approval

Meanwhile, British lawmakers will gather on 30 December to vote on the 1,246-page deal, which also includes around 800 pages of annexes and footnotes.

The opposition Labour party has said it will vote for the deal, which will guarantee that the agreement will pass in the British parliament, even though prime minister Boris Johnson could face dissent from hardline Brexiteers within his party.

Labour leader Keir Starmer, who campaigned against Brexit, said the deal did not provide enough protections for workplace rights, jobs, and manufacturing but there was no time left to renegotiate and a "no-deal" scenario would be even worse.

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EU prepares to ratify post-Brexit trade deal

EU ambassadors of the 27 member states are meeting on Monday to provisionally apply the agreement, while top MEPs also discuss the way ahead for parliamentary approval.

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