Brussels, 28 December 2020 - Ambassadors from the 27 EU member states have given their unanimous approval to the EU-UK post-Brexit trade deal, paving the way for it to come into force on 1 January. The UK Parliament is expected to approve it on 30 December.
Under EU rules, it can take effect provisionally, although the European Parliament will vote on it in January.
The deal sets the framework for trade once the UK leaves the EU single market and customs union in four days' time. The deal ended nine months of negotiations and will be approved by all 27 EU governments in writing on Tuesday.
Most of the 1,246-page document had already been seen by member states in previous weeks.
The no-deal scenario would have meant reverting to World Trade Organization (WTO) rules on 1 January, notably the immediate imposition of tariffs - import taxes - and quotas on a huge range of goods. The tariffs on some food items would have been 50% or higher.
The new trade deal enables the UK to continue selling goods to the EU market without tariffs or quotas and includes binding enforcement and dispute settlement mechanisms to address any unfair competition - what the EU calls "level playing field" rules. It also ensures continued smooth transport links between the UK and EU, including safeguards on passenger rights.
However, it means new paperwork and other barriers for UK businesses in Europe, including financial services, which employs more than a million people in the UK. It also does little to address the needs of the UK service sector, accounting for about 80% of the UK economy, and reduces UK access to EU programmes in various fields, including policing and education.
The EU-UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement will set the tone for future EU-UK relations, and both parties have committed to a sustainable future with shared priorities such as tackling climate change.