EU ambassadors have today approved the Brexit trade deal with the UK, ahead of the MPs vote.
The deal, hammered out on Christmas Eve ahead of implementation on January 1, has been given another green light with the unanimous approval.
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It comes as MPs in Britain are preparing to vote on the deal in a special sitting of Parliament on Wednesday.
It is likely to breeze through both Houses, with Labour ordering its MPs to vote for the “thin” treaty and Tories largely backing it.
The move paves the way for the continued tariff-free trade with the EU single market to take effect when the Brexit transition period expires on Thursday.
“EU ambassadors have unanimously approved the provisional application of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement as of January 1, 2021,” a spokesman for the German presidency said.
The European Parliament must also formally ratify the deal in the new year – although this will now apply retrospectively.
Around 200 officials — including EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier — spent more than 2,000 hours haggling over details on everything from electric car batteries to mackerel.
On Christmas Eve Boris Johnson said his deal is “glad tidings of great joy” for Britain as we will be unshackled from 40 years of Brussels control.
Brandishing a copy of the 1,260-page zero-tariff, zero-quota agreement signed with Brussels at 2.44pm on Thursday, the PM quipped: “I have a small present for anyone who may be looking for something to read in that sleepy post-Christmas lunch moment.”
The IPPR think tank warned that the “weaker than expected” protections in the treaty leaves workers’ rights and environmental protections at risk of erosion.
But the Prime Minister denied the UK would regress on workers’ rights and environmental standards, two issues both sides have committed to uphold in the deal.
“All that’s really saying is the UK won’t immediately send children up chimneys or pour raw sewage all over its beaches. We’re not going to regress, and you’d expect that,” he told the Sunday Telegraph.
The Prime Minister did acknowledge that the treaty “perhaps does not go as far as we would like” over access to EU markets for financial services.
But he said that Chancellor Rishi Sunak is “doing a big exercise” on business taxes and regulation alongside a “great Government effort” for change in the new year.
Mr Sunak said the nation will be able to “do things a bit differently” now, referencing new opportunities for the financial sector, and said the deal should leave those anxious about the financial impact “enormously reassured”.
Great tidings of great joy
Cabinet Minister Michael Gove has been urging UK citizens to take out comprehensive travel insurance to cover health costs and check their mobile roaming policies to avoid charges if they are travelling to the EU.
He also warned businesses that the time is “very short” to make the final preparations before the UK begins trading with its biggest trading partner and minimise what he said would amount to “some disruption”.
“In just three days’ time the Brexit transition period will end and we will have finally regained our independence,” he added.
A hasty analysis of the treaty secured on Christmas Eve began in earnest when it was published in full on Boxing Day – less than a week before its implementation.
And there were indications Brexit hardliners were preparing to support the deal, despite being angered by the little time they have to debate it.
Ian Blackford, the SNP’s leader in Westminster, said his party would vote against the “unforgivable act of economic vandalism and gross stupidity” which he argued is a “very bad deal for Scotland”.
Meanwhile, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said she expects to sign a continuity trade agreement with Turkey this week, a move that was not possible until the deal with the EU was struck because Ankara is in a customs union with the bloc.