Ambassadors from the 27 EU member states have confirmed their governments' approval for the post-Brexit trade deal with the UK, a spokesperson for the EU presidency has said. The agreement will come into effect on January 1.
The member-state envoys formally endorsed the deal in Brussels. "EU ambassadors have unanimously approved the provisional application of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement," Sebastian Fischer, the spokesman for the current German presidency of the EU, tweeted.
"Next step: Final adoption by use of written procedure. Deadline: Tomorrow, 15.00 hours."
The treaty has now been given the "green light," the spokesman said, and the ambassadors' approval allows tariff-free trade with the UK to continue after it leaves the EU single market at the beginning of next year, limiting potential disruptions to cross-channel trade.
The post-Brexit deal, agreed by the EU and UK on Christmas Eve, must be ratified retrospectively by the European Parliament, which is expected to vote in February or March after scrutinising the deal.
In London, MPs are preparing to vote on the deal on Wednesday. Labour has ordered its MPs to vote for the treaty so that the UK can leave the EU without a chaotic departure from the bloc.
"The overwhelming majority of businesses" in the UK have been getting ready for the end of the transition period on December 31, cabinet office minister Michael Gove confirmed on Monday. He stressed that they must be ready for changes to trading and regulatory rules.
The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told Le Figaro on Sunday that he envisages "questions and maybe some criticism" from European lawmakers during the ratification process.
Barnier did not rule out future disputes with the UK on the application of the deal. However, any violations will be sanctioned, including by suspending the effects of the agreement, he said.
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