EU nations welcome UK trade deal, vow scrutiny before approval (Ld)

Just seven days before the Brexit transition period was slated to end on December 31, the European Union (EU) and the UK announced the reaching of an agreement that will govern the trade and security relationship between the two sides starting from January 1, 2021.

The European Parliament and EU member states hailed the last-minute deal reached on Thursday with relief while some, with a sentiment tinged with caution, pledged to scrutinize the text before giving a green light, reports Xinhua news agency.

At a press conference in Brussels on Thursday evening, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the 27-member bloc has reached “a fair and balanced agreement” with the UK, which officially exited the EU this January.

“It is fair, it is a balanced deal, and it is right and responsible thing to do for both sides.

“To our friends in the UK, I want to say, parting is such sweet sorrow,” she added.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in his virtual press conference at Downing Street, said his country has “taken back control” when securing the post-Brexit trade deal.

“We have taken back control of every jot and title of our regulation, in a way that is complete and unfettered,” he said.

Johnson also said the agreement offers certainty for businesses across the whole country and will benefit the whole of Britain because “there will be no palisade of tariffs on January 1 (2021) and there will be no non-tariff barriers to trade”.

The deal will need the approval of the European Parliament, the British Parliament and the EU’s 27 member states.

The EU is likely to impose a “provisional application” of the agreement until MEPs vote on it in 2021.

Hailing the “historical importance” of the deal, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country will examine it to decide whether it supported the result.

“With the agreement, we are creating the basis for a new chapter in our relationship,” Merkel said in a statement, adding that the government will now intensively examine the text of the agreement to judge quickly whether Germany can support the negotiation result.

“I am very confident that we have a good result here,” said Merkel.

In a separate statement, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said: “We have finally seen white smoke rise from the negotiations, but the agreement is not yet finalised.”

Maas added that the deal should be approved by all 27 EU member states and later the European Parliament before it comes into force.

“As the Council Presidency, we want to do everything we can to ensure that the agreement can come into force provisionally on January 1, 2021,” he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the deal proved that “European unity and steadfastness have paid off” and “Europe is moving forward and can look to the future, united, sovereign and strong”.

“The deal with the UK is essential to protect our citizens, our fishermen, our producers. We will make sure this is the case,” he added.

“Excellent news that an agreement on a new EU-UK partnership has been reached after tough negotiations. This is of great importance to us all. We will now study it carefully,” tweeted Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, in his message, described the deal as “good news”.

“Interests and rights of European businesses and people will be guaranteed. The UK will be a central partner and ally for the EU and Italy,” Conte said.

“Welcome to the beginning of the agreement between the EU and UK,” said Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Twitter.

“The member states will examine it and EU Council will comment in the coming days. Spain and the UK continue to dialogue to reach an agreement on Gibraltar.”

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and Prime Minister Antonio Costa also welcomed the deal, stressing that the UK will remain an ally and important partner.