UK – (WARSOOR) – 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”.
Earlier Ms von der Leyen said the TCA “comes with real teeth, with a binding dispute settlement mechanism”. And she warned that the EU would use those teeth if necessary.
The parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt described 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.
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.
The TCA has still resulted in more paperwork, extra costs and less trade between the two sides, since the UK left the EU.
A European Parliament resolution described the UK’s exit from the EU as “a historic mistake”.
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.
The UK made fishing rights a key issue in the negotiations, with control over access to its waters seen as a sign of British sovereignty.
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