European Union ambassadors gave the go-ahead to the bloc’s draft free-trade agreement with the United Kingdom, paving the way for the deal to take effect on January 1.
“EU ambassadors have unanimously approved the provisional application of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement as of January 1, 2021,” Sebastian Fischer, a Brussels-based spokesman for the German Government, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said in a Twitter post on Monday.
The thumbs-up by EU member-country envoys sets the stage for formal approval by the 27-nation bloc’s governments on Tuesday and for a vote by the UK House of Commons on December 30.
The European Parliament plans to give its verdict during the first two months of next year, saying more time is needed for proper scrutiny. Meanwhile, the accord is slated to enter into force provisionally once the UK’s post-Brexit transition ends on Thursday.
The hard-fought pact reached by EU and UK negotiators on December 24 will prevent tariffs from being imposed on two-way goods trade while marking Britain’s definitive departure from the European single market and legal framework 48 years after the country joined the bloc.
The deal softens the economic blow to the UK of leaving the European single market, even if the country’s long-term growth is set to be hit. Britain’s growth is forecast to be 0.5 percentage point lower every year for the next decade than it would have been had the country stayed in the bloc.
For the EU, reaching a deal avoids poisoning relations with a key diplomatic and commercial neighbour for years, and provides a basis for further cooperation in the future.