Parliament gives the green light to the EU-UK agreement on trade and cooperation

The EP’s approval came forward with 660 votes in favour, 5 against and 32 abstentions. The parliamentary resolution accompanying the agreement, in which MEPs detail their expectations, was backed by 578 votes, 51 voted against and 68 abstained.

On 24 December 2020, EU and UK negotiators signed a Trade and Cooperation Agreement laying down the rules for future bilateral cooperation. To minimize the effects of a sharp change in the relationship, the agreement has been provisionally implemented since 1 January. Approval of the EP is necessary for its permanent entry into force, before the end of the transitional period on 30 April.

The EU’s exit is a ‘historic mistake’, but the agreement is welcome

In the resolution prepared by the Coordination Group for Brexit and  the Conference of Presidents, Parliament welcomes the achievement of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement which limits the harmful effects of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. This exit is classified as a ‘historical error’, as a third country will never be able to enjoy the same benefits as a Member State of the Union.

The zero-quota, zero-tariff agreement between the EU and the Kingdom is valued by the plenary. Guarantees for fair competition can serve as a model for future trade agreements, the text states. Parliament agrees with the clauses relating to, inter-sectors, fisheries, consumption, air traffic and energy.

They regret, however, that London refused to extend the pact to the areas of foreign policy, security and development, as well as to participate in the Erasmus+ student exchange programme.

Peace on the island of Ireland

The House recalls that preserving peace on the island of Ireland is one of its main objectives in the context of the relationship with the United Kingdom and condemns recent British actions that violate the Withdrawal Agreement. They call on the British Government ‘to act in good faith and fully implement the terms of the agreements it has signed’, including the Protocol on Northern Ireland, without delay and on the basis of the timetable agreed with the European Commission.

Parliament’s involvement in oversight

The resolution stresses that the House must play its full role in monitoring and implementing the Agreement, also in making Union’s important unilateral decisions.

Statements by the speakers

«The EU and the Kingdom have laid the groundwork for a relationship between equals. This is the beginning, not the end. We reach agreements in important areas, such as reciprocal market access

and trade. Much remains to be done in foreign policy and educational exchange programmes. In order to ensure the defence of citizens’ interests, Parliament must participate. There is only a future partnership in which both sides respect their commitments,» said Andreas Schieder (S&D, Austria), rapporteur of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

«The ratification of the agreement is not a sign of blind confidence in the British Government’s intention to implement the agreement in good faith. Rather, it is insurance against possible unilateral deviations from what has been agreed. Parliament will remain vigilant. We must now convene the Parliamentary Partnership Assembly to continue building bridges between the two sides,» added Christophe Hansen (PPE, Luxembourg), rapporteur for the International Trade Committee.

Next steps

After receiving approval from the EP, the agreement will enter into force once the Council formally concludes it by 30 April.