The European Parliament has ratified the post-Brexit European Union-United Kingdom 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. Members of European Parliament voted in favour by 660 votes to 5, while 32 abstained.
The UK’s chief negotiator, Lord Frost, said that the vote brings certainty and will allow the UK to focus on the future. Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke of a “final step in a long journey”. He said that the trade deal provides “stability to the UK’s new relationship with the EU as vital trading partners, close allies and sovereign equals.” The result was also welcomed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
However, Lord Frost’s opposite number in the Brexit talks, Michel Barnier, reacted by calling Brexit a warning. He said that it is a failure of the European Union and that the EU has to learn lessons from it.
Despite the TCA, Brexit tensions remain, including a French threat of “reprisals” against the UK over new fishing restrictions. Additionally, under a separate protocol, Northern Ireland remains de facto part of the EU’s single market. It means that the goods arriving in Northern Ireland from Britain will have to undergo EU checks. Additionally, TCA only 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. Among the areas not covered by the deal are foreign policy, financial services and student exchanges.