Brussels (dpa) – The European Parliament has finally approved the Brexit trade pact with Great Britain. Four months after the UK leaves the EU, the agreement is expected to enter into force on May 1.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed this Wednesday and spoke of the “final step in a long journey”. Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, called the contract the basis of a strong and close partnership, but warned again: “Reliable implementation is crucial.”
Because the EU is accusing London of not having implemented special rules for Northern Ireland in the exit treaty already in force. The European Commission has started an infringement procedure. The European Parliament has therefore postponed the ratification of the aforementioned trade pact for several weeks, arguing that the earlier treaty would be broken. In the end, MPs approved the hundreds of pages of strong trade and cooperation agreement with 660 votes out of 697. The 30 April deadline agreed with Great Britain was adhered to. So far, the agreement has been provisionally applied.
The ratification will bring “stability to our new relationship with the EU as important trading partners, closest allies and sovereign equals,” Johnson said in London. Now is the time to look ahead to the future and build “Global Britain” – this is what Johnson calls his vision of a strong, independent kingdom. Charles Michel, president of the EU Council, tweeted that a new era was dawning. “The EU will continue to work constructively with the UK, an important friend and partner.”
After months of negotiation, the EU and Britain had finalized the TCA trade agreement on Christmas Eve 2020 – just a week before the UK left the EU internal market and customs union. It provides duty-free and unrestricted trade of goods in both directions. However, there are still customs formalities and controls. Among other things, it checks whether products are really mainly made in Great Britain and whether food meets the requirements set.
The contract also contains rules for fisheries and cooperation on energy, transport, justice, police and many other subjects. The pact gives Great Britain access to the EU’s internal market. In return, the EU demanded fair competition – the so-called level playing field. The same environmental, social and subsidy standards are meant.
At the heart of the negotiations was the access of EU fishermen to British waters. A transition period of five and a half years has been agreed, during which EU fishermen will be allowed to fish 25% less in UK waters than before. This must then be determined annually. However, there are already problems and delays in implementation from a French point of view.
Commission President von der Leyen had promoted the contract in parliamentary debate on Tuesday. This protects citizens’ rights, prevents significant economic disruptions, safeguards the EU internal market and EU standards. And he has “teeth” – an arbitration mechanism and the possibility of unilateral penalties if necessary. For example, criminal charges are possible. European People’s Party leader, Manfred Weber, emphasized to Deutschlandfunk that the EU now had “many more options to force Britain to comply with the treaties”.
In June 2016, a narrow majority of British voters voted in a referendum to leave the EU. This was formally completed on January 31, 2020. However, there was a transition period until December 31, 2020, during which Great Britain remained in the internal market and in the customs union. Deep changes in daily life did not come until January 1, 2021. Trade, among other things, collapsed drastically at the beginning of the year.