The European Parliament has ratified the post-Brexit EU-UK trade deal – a key move to ensure that tariff-and quota-free trade continues.
The Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) has been operating provisionally since January. MEPs voted in favour by 660 votes to 5, while 32 abstained.
The UK’s chief negotiator, Lord Frost, said the vote “brings certainty and allows us to focus on the future”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke of a “final step in a long journey”.
The trade deal provided “stability to our new relationship with the EU as vital trading partners, close allies and sovereign equals”, he said.
The result, announced on Wednesday after a vote late on Tuesday, was also welcomed by
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
I warmly welcome the @Europarl_EN vote in favour of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
The TCA marks the foundation of a strong and close partnership with the UK. Faithful implementation is essential. pic.twitter.com/aTU7cOB5Ck
However, the parliament’s Brexit Co-ordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, reacted by describing the deal as “a failure for both sides, but better than nothing”.
Lord Frost’s opposite number in the Brexit talks, Michel Barnier, was also less than flattering.
“This is a divorce. It is a warning, Brexit. It’s a failure of the European Union and we have to learn lessons from it,” he told MEPs.
Hugely welcome the overwhelming vote by @Europarl_EN for our trade agreement with the EU.
Hope we can now begin a new chapter together as Europeans, characterised by friendly cooperation between sovereign equals.
Brexit tensions remain, including a French threat of “reprisals” against the UK over new fishing restrictions. Northern Ireland trade is also a thorny issue.
Under a separate protocol, Northern Ireland remains de facto part of the EU’s single market, so goods arriving there from Britain have to undergo EU checks. Since Brexit there has been some disruption to that trade.
The TCA covers EU-UK trade in goods, but not services. The UK economy is dominated by services – sectors such as banking, insurance, advertising and legal advice.
A quick guide to what’s in the Brexit deal
The TCA has still resulted in more paperwork, extra costs and less trade between the two sides, since the UK left the EU.
Among the areas not covered by the deal are foreign policy, financial services and student exchanges.
Before the MEPs’ debate started on Tuesday, French Europe Minister Clément Beaune accused the UK of blocking fishing rights. He said the EU could respond with “reprisals” in financial services.
“The United Kingdom is expecting quite a few authorisations from us for financial services. We won’t give any for as long as we don’t have guarantees on fishing and other issues,” he said on
French news channel BFMTV.
French fishermen have complained of being prevented from operating in British waters because of difficulties in obtaining licences.
Meanwhile, British seafood exporters have been hit by an EU ban on UK exports of live shellfish. Scottish firms account for most of that business, and some now face collapse.