European Parliament Approves Post-Brexit Trade Deal With UK

April 28, 2021 Updated: April 28, 2021

The European Parliament announced on Wednesday that EU lawmakers had voted overwhelmingly in favor of the agreement with Britain on post-Brexit trade arrangements.

EU lawmakers approved the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement by 660 votes to five, with 32 abstentions.

The vote cleared the last hurdle towards the full ratification of the agreement, and marks the end of more than four years of negotiations that began after the UK decided to leave the European Union in a referendum in June 2016.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “This week is the final step in a long journey, providing stability to our new relationship with the EU as vital trading partners, close allies and sovereign equals. Now is the time to look forward to the future and to building a more global Britain.”

The UK’s Brexit Minister Lord Frost said the vote was an “important moment,” as it “brings certainty and allows us to focus on the future.”

“There will be much for us and the EU to work on together through the new partnership council and we are committed to working to find solutions that work for both of us.

“We will always aim to act in that positive spirit but we will also always stand up for our interests when we must—as a sovereign country in full control of our own destiny.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also welcomed the result, saying the Brexit deal “marks the foundation of a strong and close partnership with the UK.”

But she emphasized that “faithful implementation is essential.”

The EU has concerns about Johnson’s stance on the Northern Ireland Protocol, a part of the Brexit withdrawal deal which guarantees there is no land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which the EU sees as key to protecting the Northern Ireland peace process set out in the Good Friday Agreement.

But it effectively erects a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK and has been vehemently opposed by unionist politicians.

Johnson said earlier this month that he would end “ludicrous barriers” to internal trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, despite having signed the Brexit withdrawal agreement himself in Jan. 2020.

Talking to the European Parliament on Tuesday, von der Leyen said: “This agreement on paper is only as good as implementation and enforcement in practice. And I share the concerns you have on unilateral actions taken by the United Kingdom since the agreement came into provisional application.”

But she said the Brexit deal “comes with real teeth, with a binding dispute settlement mechanism and the possibility for unilateral, remedial measures where necessary.”

“And let me be very clear: we do not want to have to use these tools. But we will not hesitate to use them if necessary,” she warned.

Reuters contributed to this report.