The post-Brexit trade and security deal has been unanimously backed by EU member states, paving the way for the new arrangements to come into force on 1 January.
At a meeting of ambassadors in Brussels, the 27 member states gave their support for the 1,246-page treaty to be “provisionally applied” at the end of the year. The decision will be formally completed by written procedure at 3pm central European time (1400 GMT) on Tuesday.
A spokesman for the German presidency of the EU, organising the bloc’s affairs, said the treaty had been given the “green light”.
The only obstacles standing in the way of the deal now coming into force are votes by MPs and peers in the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The UK parliament has been recalled to sit on Wednesday 30 December to debate and vote on the legislation.
The European parliament is delaying its vote, to February or March, when it is hoped MEPs will return to Strasbourg to complete the formal EU ratification process.
MEPs had said they did not have sufficient time before the end of the year to scrutinise the deal.
In an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, Michel Barnier said there was a risk that the treaty would lead to a rancorous EU-UK relationship, given the options to apply tariffs in the event of regulatory divergence over time.
“There is evidently a risk … but I won’t make any unfounded accusations here. This agreement must be the basis of a smart and sustainable cooperation between Europe and the UK,” the EU chief negotiator said.
Barnier said he had mixed feelings about the deal. “Can we be happy about a divorce?” he said. The deal, he said, had been “on the verge of breakup several times” including “a month ago and in Brussels more recently”. “The British have experienced diplomats who don’t give up and always ask for more,” he said.
Speaking on Monday morning, the cabinet minister Michael Gove hailed the deal but said British businesses faced a “bumpy” period from 1 January.
“Businesses will need to make sure that they’re ready for new customs procedures and we as individuals will need to make sure that our passports are up to date because they need to have at least six months before expiry on them in order to be able to travel abroad,” he said. “I’m sure there will be bumpy moments but we are there in order to try to do everything we can to smooth the path.”
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