UPDATE – MEPs sign off Brexit trade deal as last major approval step

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BRUSSELS, April 28 (CDE/Reuters) – Britain remains the European Union’s “important friend and partner”, the chairman of the bloc said on Wednesday after the European Parliament cleared a new, post-Brexit trade deal between the two.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said she warmly welcomed the vote.

“The TCA marks the foundation of a strong and close partnership with the UK. Faithful implementation is essential,” she said in a tweet.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week was the final step in a long journey, providing stability to Britain’s new relationship with the EU.

“Now is the time to look forward to the future and to building a more global Britain,” he said in a statement.

“I warmly welcome the results of the vote by the European Parliament on the EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement. It marks a major step forward in EU-UK relations and opens a new era,” European Council President Charles Michel said on Twitter.

“The EU will continue to work constructively with the UK as an important friend and partner.”

Parliament voted with a large majority in favour of granting its consent to the agreement setting the rules of the future EU-UK relationship.

The consent decision was adopted by 660 votes for, five against and 32 abstentions, while the accompanying resolution, setting out Parliament’s evaluation of and expectations from the deal, passed by 578 votes, with 51 against and 68 abstentions. The vote took place on Tuesday, with results announced on Wednesday.

In the resolution prepared by the UK Coordination Group and the Conference of Presidents, Parliament strongly welcomes the conclusion of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement that limits the negative consequences of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, which it considers a “historic mistake” as no third country can enjoy the same benefits as an EU member.

The zero quotas and zero tariffs trade agreement between the EU and the UK are viewed positively by MEPs, and guarantees on fair competition rules could serve as a model for future trade agreements, MEPs add. Parliament agrees with provisions on, among others, fisheries, consumers, air traffic and energy.

However, MEPs regret that the UK did not want the agreement to extend to foreign, security and development policies and did not want to participate in the Erasmus+ student exchange programme.

MEPs underlined that Parliament must play a full role in monitoring how the agreement is applied, including by being involved in unilateral EU actions under the agreement and having its views taken into account.

 Andreas Schieder (S&D, AT), rapporteur for the Committee on Foreign Affairs said “The EU and the UK have created the basis for a relationship among equals. Most importantly, today is a beginning, not the end. We agreed in many important areas, such as securing mutual market access and building a good relationship on trade. Much work remains on foreign policy and educational exchange programmes. For citizens’ interests to be represented, Parliament must be closely involved. Only a partnership in which both sides stick to their commitments has a future.”

Christophe Hansen (EPP, LU), rapporteur for the Committee on International Trade said Ratification of the agreement is not a vote of blind confidence in the UK Government’s intention to implement our agreements in good faith. Rather, it is an EU insurance policy against further unilateral deviations from what was jointly agreed. Parliament will remain vigilant. Let’s now convene the Parliamentary Partnership Assembly to continue building bridges across the Channel.” 

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