EU Ambassadors from the 27 remaining member states have unanimously approved the provisional post-Brexit free trade deal with the United Kingdom

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EU starts Brexit deal signoff | Image for interpretation purposes only EPA-EFE/ARIS OIKONOMOU / POOL

EU starts Brexit deal signoff

Ambassadors from the 27 remaining member states have unanimously approved the provisional post-Brexit free trade deal with the United Kingdom, bringing to an end months of drawn-out negotiations.

After nearly 10 months of lengthy negotiations, EU ambassadors on Monday formally began the process of approving a post-Brexit free trade deal with the UK.

The envoys gave unanimous approval to the agreement at a meeting in Brussels. It means the deal can provisionally go into effect after the UK leaves the single market on January 1 and avoid disruption to cross-Channel trade. 

“We are happy and relieved that we got a deal,” one EU diplomat present at the meeting said “But the timeframes to implement this are tight.”

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announced that the talks had reached a successful conclusion the previous day.

Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels on Wednesday. (Image: François Lenoir / Reuters)

EU governments held cabinet meetings earlier on Monday to agree their final position on the text ahead of the meeting.

Germany’s cabinet gave their approval after Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday that she was “very confident that we have a good result.”

France had threatened to veto the deal if it felt its fishing industry had been short-changed, but a source close to President Emmanuel Macron told DW that the government felt it “protects our fundamental interests.”

French fishermen have also welcomed the deal, having threatened to blockade the port of Calais in the event of a no deal Brexit that would have locked them out completely from UK seas.

“Everybody will lose out a bit,” Olivier Leprete, the chairman of the influential regional fisheries committee in northern France, which represents local fishermen, told DW.

“The point is that European trawlers fan can still go into British waters, if it means that they fish a bit less,” he said. 

When will the Brexit deal come into force?

The agreement will be applied on a provisional basis until the European Parliament votes on it next year.

At a private meeting between Michel Barnier and MEPs on Monday, senior parliamentarians suggested February 23 as a possible date.

Barring an unexpected use of the European Parliament’s veto, the tentative agreement secures the UK’s orderly departure from the EU’s single market and customs area on December 31, avoiding a chaotic no deal Brexit.

But governments on both sides of the Channel are warning that they expect some disruption to travel and trade flows.

“I think business is broadly in a good place but inevitably with any change, with any transition, there are occasional bumpy moments,” British Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said in an interview on Monday.

Officials will now use what is known in EU jargon as ‘written procedure’ — a way of taking urgent decisions without the time-consuming need to call a meeting of ministers or EU leaders.

A spokesperson for the German government, which holds the current EU presidency, said the process should be completed tomorrow.

jf/nm (AFP, Reuters)

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