Brexit: EU ambassadors give green light to trade deal but DUP will vote against it

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener


EU ambassadors have given provisional approval for Britain’s post-Brexit trade deal to be implemented from January 1.

A spokesman for the German EU presidency said the ambassadors had unanimously agreed to “green light” the settlement hammered out on Christmas Eve.

The move paves the way for the agreement which allows for the continued tariff-free trade with the EU single market to take effect when the current 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," the spokesman for the German presidency said.

It comes as MPs in Britain were preparing to vote on the deal in a special sitting of Parliament called for Wednesday.

It is likely to pass through both Houses, with Labour ordering its MPs to vote for the "thin" treaty because the only other option is a chaotic departure without a trade deal.

So what is and isn't in the deal?

Boris Johnson said the deal covers trade worth around £660 billion and that it is a "good deal for the whole of Europe", including:

  • Goods and components can be sold without tariffs and quotas in the EU market.

  • Will allow the share of fish in British waters that the UK can catch to rise from around half now to two-thirds by the end of the five-and-a-half year transition.

  • Allegations of unfair competition will be judged by an independent third-party arbitration panel with the possibility of a “proportionate” response.

  • On financial services, a vitally important sector to the UK, Mr Johnson conceded he had not got all he wanted.

  • The Erasmus student exchange programme will be replaced in the UK by a worldwide scheme named after code breaker Alan Turing.

The European Parliament must also formally ratify the deal in the new year - although this will now apply retrospectively.

The agreement came as ministers stepped up calls for businesses and individuals to prepare for the new procedures that will apply in just four days’ time, regardless of the agreement.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove warned time was “very short” as he acknowledged there were likely to be some “bumpy moments” as the new arrangements came into effect.

Michael Gove said he wanted to end the ‘Westminster knows best’ approach Credit: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

He said firms needed to be ready for new customs, while he urged UK citizens to take out comprehensive travel insurance to cover health costs and to check their mobile roaming policies to avoid charges if they were travelling to the EU.

"I think lots of businesses are ready, particularly the larger businesses, some smaller businesses will still want to do a bit more in order to be ready," he told BBC Breakfast.

"We are there to help them and the advice that we’re giving, and also the money that we’ve invested in making sure that people can be ready for customs procedures, is designed to help.

"I’m sure there will be bumpy moments but we are there in order to try to do everything we can to smooth the path."

The DUP, however, has confirmed its MPs will vote against the Brexit trade deal on Wednesday.

Arlene Foster has been the Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party since 2015. Credit: PA

In a statement, the DUP said: "When Parliament is recalled on Wednesday, we will vote against this agreement.

"We will do so as a point of principle and not because we supported a no-deal option. A free trade deal is better than no deal but for Northern Ireland this deal does not undo the detrimental aspects of the Protocol.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said: "Whilst recognising this agreement brings about tariff and quota-free trade between the UK and the EU and thus reducing the impact on the GB to NI trade flows, we still have many negative issues arising from the Protocol.

"On that basis we will vote against this agreement. We will continue to work to mitigate the worst excesses of the separate Northern Ireland arrangements whilst exploring new opportunities for Northern Ireland.

"Our challenge going forward will be to press the Government to get a better outcome in those areas where more work is needed."