All 27 EU members are expected to approve the post-Brexit trade deal with the UK a few days after an ambassador briefing on Christmas Day by Michel Barnier, the bloc’s top negotiator.
Experts from across Europe, from Berlin to Paris to Rome, will now study the 1,246-page text carefully, although much of it is well known in capitals and there is little doubt that the agreement will be signed.
Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European commission, were able to announce the completion of nine months of trade and security negotiations on Christmas Eve after the two teams led by Barnier and his British counterpart David Frost agreed on terms on 1.44. pm UK time.
Ambassadors representing the 27 member states in Brussels nibbled on chocolates and at least one wore a Santa hat when they met to start the process that will lead to the agreement taking effect on January 1.
The European Parliament has refused to hold a consent vote this year due to lack of time for scrutiny. The UK will leave the single market and the EU customs union in six days.
Instead, the deal will be “provisionally applied” by the end of the year by the EU to avoid a no-deal outcome, and MEPs will vote in late January. The House of Commons will be overruled and a vote on the new treaty will be held on December 30.
An EU diplomat said: “The EU ambassadors praised Michel Barnier and the EU negotiating team for their resilience and steadfastness under intense pressure during the Brexit negotiations with the UK.
“The ambassadors also thanked Michel Barnier and his team for the extraordinary cooperation and transparency during the negotiations, which has helped enormously to ensure the unity of the EU.”
The diplomat said that the member states “will now initiate a preliminary review of the draft texts of the different Brexit agreements.”
“This exercise will take a few days, since the central agreement on trade and cooperation of the EU already includes 1,246 pages of legal text,” said the diplomat. “The EU ambassadors unanimously endorsed a letter to the European Parliament on the intention of the EU member states to take a decision on the provisional application of the EU-UK agreement in the coming days.
“The letter establishes the need for this exceptional step to avoid a significant disruption in relations between the EU and the UK with serious consequences for citizens and businesses at the end of the transition period on 1 January.
“Provisional application would also allow for proper and full democratic scrutiny of the draft agreement by the European Parliament and the Council of Member States before its final ratification. This decision on the provisional application will be put to a vote in the council in the next few days ”.
In the UK, Eurosceptic MPs await the verdict of a “star chamber” of experts convened by the European Research Group to review the deal line by line. It is expected to publish its findings on Monday. However, there is no expectation that the deal will be rejected.
Labor leader Keir Starmer has told his MPs that they should vote on the deal. A rebellion in Wednesday’s vote is certain, and several shadow ministers are likely to resign rather than vote in favor.
At a press conference on Christmas Eve, Starmer said: “At a time of such national importance, it is simply not credible that Labor is on the sidelines.”
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