Brexit deal gets provisional approval in Brussels, expected to pass UK vote

Brussels, Dec 28 (efe-epa).- European Union ambassadors on Monday gave the green light to provisionally apply the post-Brexit trade deal with the United Kingdom from 1 January until it can be properly ratified by MEPs later in the year.

Sebastian Fischer, who was representing Germany, the current holder of the rotating Council of the European Union presidency, said in a tweet that the ambassadors had “unanimously” approved the application of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, then held a conference with the presidents of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the European Parliament, David Sassoli, and the heads of parliamentary groups.

The EU ambassadors have been analyzing the 1,246-page document, agreed on Christmas Eve over four years after the 2016 Brexit referendum, since the weekend. They must submit their formal approval in writing on Tuesday.

Although there is no set date as of yet, European sources told Efe that the text should be published in the EU’s official diary on 31 December, a day after an official act with the participation of von der Leyen and European Council president, Charles Michel.

For it to be in place by 1 January, when the Brexit transition officially comes to an end, the deal needs the backing of the UK Parliament in a voting session expected to take place virtually on 30 December.

The Conservative Party of Prime Minister Boris Johnson has an ample majority in the House of Commons, the lower chamber. The opposition Labour Party has also signaled its backing in the vote, although there are murmurs of a small Conservative rebellion from the hardline Brexit back-benches.

Should proceedings go ahead without a hitch, the deal will be in place provisionally until 28 February, after which there could be a small extension until the final EU ratification, given that MEPs want to vote on it in a plenary session in the second week of March.

A statement on Johnson’s official Twitter account Monday ran: “Just spoken with (European Council president) Charles Michel. I welcomed the importance of the UK/EU Agreement as a new starting point for our relationship, between sovereign equals.

“We looked forward to the formal ratification of the agreement and to working together on shared priorities, such as tackling climate change.”

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