Michel Barnier: briefed ambassadors
The UK’s Brexit deal will be approved by the 27 member states of the EU within days following a briefing of ambassadors by Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
Sources in Europe say there is little doubt that the 1,246-page text presents no obstacles to the deal being signed off. MEPs are expected to vote formally on the agreement in January.
The deal agreed on Christmas Eve will also be put to a vote in the House of Commons on 30 December. Despite some dissent from the SNP and hardliners in the Tory party it is expected to sail through after Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said his party would support the government as it was better than no deal.
It will mean the UK will leave the EU’s single market and customs union on 31 December.
One European diplomat told The Guardian: “EU ambassadors unanimously endorsed a letter to the European parliament on the intention of EU member states to take a decision on the provisional application of the EU-UK agreement in the coming days.
“The letter lays out the necessity of this exceptional step in order to prevent a significant disruption in EU-UK relations with severe consequences for citizens and businesses at the end of the transition period on the 1st of January.
“The 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 following days.”
SNP objects to fish deal
Meanwhile, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, has accused the UK government of breaking promises to Scotland’s fishing industry.
Ms Sturgeon said the agreement was “a bad deal for fishing”. She said it appeared that “major promises” made by the UK government on fisheries had been broken.
“The extent of these broken promises will become apparent to all very soon,” she said.
The UK government has insisted the deal will allow Scotland’s fishermen to flourish outside the EU.
Until the end of this year, the UK will be bound by the EU’s rules including the Common Fisheries Policy.
There will then be a five-and-a-half year transition period for the fishing industry.
Asked where the biggest compromises had been made, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK had wanted “complete control over our fisheries from the get-go.”
Describing the final agreement as “reasonable”, he said: “The EU began with wanting a transition period of 14 years, we wanted three years.”
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said the deal was “great news for Scotland’s businesses”.
He said it brought “huge opportunities” and “exceptional access” to the EU market and new markets around the world.
“We have an agreement on fisheries which will ensure that our fishermen, and our coastal communities, will flourish outside of the EU’s unfair Common Fisheries Policy,” he said.
“The UK will once more be a sovereign coastal state.”
He added that the deal would protect famous Scottish products such as whisky, Arbroath smokies and Orkney cheddar.
Comment: Something fishy about the SNP’s stance on Europe