The European Parliament has overwhelmingly backed the post-Brexit trade deal between Britain and the European Union, clearing the final hurdle to its ratification, while expressing clear mistrust of the UK government.
EU lawmakers approved the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (ATT) by 660 to five, with 32 abstentions, parliament said on Wednesday, a day after the vote.
Parliament’s approval ends more than four years of acrimonious negotiations and debate as Britain ended 47 years of EU membership, but mistrust persists.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she warmly welcomed the vote.
“The ATT marks the basis for a strong and close partnership with the UK. Faithful implementation is essential,” she said in a tweet.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said this week is the last stop on a long journey, ensuring the stability of Britain’s new relationship with the EU.
“Now is the time to look to the future and build a more global Britain,” he said in a statement.
Lawmakers also voted overwhelmingly in favor of an accompanying resolution in which they describe Brexit as a “historic mistake”.
The text spoke of the limited scope of the trade deal, with “drastically reduced” opportunities for the UK’s largely service-based economy.
Lawmakers condemned Britain’s unilateral change in trade deals in Northern Ireland and urged the Commission to continue its legal action.
They also warned the European Union to remain vigilant in the face of UK action on taxation, money laundering and access of EU fishing vessels to its waters.
Britain left the EU at the end of January 2020, but remained in the EU’s single market until early 2021. The deal reached in December guarantees zero tariffs and quotas, but adds more new controls and administrative formalities hampering trade.
British exports to the EU fell 47% in January-February and imports by 20%, far more than declines by any other EU trading partner.
EU lawmakers see the trade deal, including potential sanctions such as closed market access, as a tool to keep Britain in check.
Christophe Hansen, one of the lawmakers in charge of the case, said the vote should be seen more as an insurance policy.
“Ratifying the agreement is not a blind vote of confidence in the UK government’s intention to implement our agreements in good faith,” he said.
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