The 27 countries of the European Union (EU) on Monday unanimously approved the provisional application of a post-Brexit deal with Britain, an EU presidency spokesperson said.
The unanimous approval, therefore, allows agreed changes to come into force from Jan. 1.
“EU Ambassadors have unanimously approved the provisional application of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement as of Jan. 1, 2021,” a spokesperson for the German presidency of the Council of the EU, Sebastian Fischer, said on Twitter.
A trade deal between the European Union and Britain was only thrashed out on Dec. 24, leaving too short a time for the agreement to be fully ratified.
Britain will leave the EU’s single market and customs union on Jan. 1 after an 11-month transition period runs out.
The European Parliament will still have to give the green light, but as this will only happen in the new year, making the provisional application necessary.
The European Commission has suggested a provisional application period until Feb. 28 to give the parliament time to vet the agreement.
In a press release following a discussion between the European Parliament, European Commission, and chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday, the parliament highlighted that such provisional application should remain the exception.
“In the spirit of unity that prevailed throughout the negotiation process, and given the particular, unique and specific circumstances, the Conference of Presidents accepts a provisional application to mitigate the disruption for citizens and businesses and prevent the chaos of a no-deal scenario,” the parliament said in a statement.
“This decision on this specific provisional application neither constitutes a precedent nor reopens established commitments made among EU institutions.
“It should not serve as a blueprint for future consent procedures,” the parliament added.
The provisional application could potentially be extended until the parliament would ratify the agreement in March, the parliament said.
Britain also still needs to ratify the agreement. London has recalled its parliament for December 30.
To launch the written procedure to allow for the provisional application in itself requires at least informal unanimity; a positive decision is therefore likely.
It is expected on Tuesday afternoon.
The envisaged free trade deal means that there will be no tariffs and quotas imposed between the bloc and Britain.
The agreement also sets out a host of other issues, including fisheries, security, and competition clauses.
The German government on Monday gave the green light for the trade deal, with the cabinet led by Chancellor Angela Merkel “unanimous” in its positive appraisal of the agreement.
“Germany can agree to the agreement,” said a deputy government spokeswoman, and it will also do so in the council.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, meanwhile, said on Monday after speaking to European Council President Charles Michel that the agreement was a “new starting point for our relationship, between sovereign equals.”