Concerns over UK ‘good faith’ as European Parliament ratifies Brexit deal

Johnson says step provides ‘more stable foundation for the relationship’

Boris Johnson: “Now is the time to look forward to the future and to building a more global Britain.” Photograph: PA Wire

Boris Johnson: “Now is the time to look forward to the future and to building a more global Britain.” Photograph: PA Wire

 

The European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly to approve the post-Brexit trade deal between the European Union and UK, bringing to a conclusion years of negotiations to re-establish a new relationship between London and Brussels.

The parliament gave its consent to the deal in vote of 660 votes in favour, five against and 32 abstentions, a necessary final step in order for the deal to come into force permanently.

British prime minister Boris Johnson welcomed the ratification as providing a more stable foundation for the relationship.

“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,” Mr Johnson said in a statement.

“Now is the time to look forward to the future and to building a more global Britain.”

But several MEPs expressed concerns over whether the British government would stick to the agreement. Alongside the vote to approve the deal, the parliament passed a resolution condemning the UK’s “recent unilateral actions, in breach of the Withdrawal Agreement, to extend grace periods”.

It also called “on the UK government to act in good faith and fully implement the agreements which it has signed”.

Checks in North

The British government’s decision to continue not to enforce some checks on goods between Britain and Northern Ireland triggered legal action by the European Commission, in a rocky start for the North’s new arrangements.

Christophe Hansen, a Luxembourg MEP in the centre-right group of Fine Gael who is rapporteur for the Committee on International Trade, said the deal would help hold Britain to its commitments.

“Ratification of the agreement is not a vote of blind confidence in the UK Government’s intention to implement our agreements in good faith,” Mr Hansen said in a statement. “Rather, it is an EU insurance policy against further unilateral deviations from what was jointly agreed.”

During the debate, chief negotiator of the deal on the EU side Michel Barnier described Brexit as a “historic mistake”.

“Any agreement on trade is better than no agreement,” said Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune. “It will be a different relationship particularly for business but I believe that we will continue to have a strong and friendly relationship with the UK.”

The deal had been provisionally applied until now and was due to lapse on April 30th, and some formalities will be fulfilled over the coming days before the process is finally concluded.