Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal has been unanimously approved by EU ambassadors – clearing an important hurdle to becoming law.
Envoys for the 27 EU nations gave provisional backing this morning for the treaty to take effect this Friday, January 1.
With the UK Parliament set to back it in a vote on Wednesday, it means firms will not be suddenly slapped with trade tariffs due to an interruption in EU rules.
But firms are still being warned to prepare for new customs and single market checks which kick in permanently from Friday.
And the deal may not be approved by the European Parliament, which also needs to ratify it, before February.
A spokesman for the German EU presidency said the ambassadors had unanimously agreed to “green light” the settlement hammered out on Christmas Eve.
“EU ambassadors have unanimously approved the provisional application of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement as of January 1, 2021,” the spokesman for the German presidency said.
It comes as MPs brace to vote on the deal in a special sitting of Parliament on Wednesday.
It is likely to pass through both the House of Commons and House of Lords, despite Tory Brexiteers using a ‘Star Chamber’ of lawyer MPs to study the detail.
But a string of Labour MPs are expected to rebel, and either vote against the deal or abstain on it.
Reports suggest they could include both pro-Remain MPs who do not want to be seen to back a “thin” deal, and members of the Socialist Campaign Group of left-wingers.
One MP told the Mirror they expected some junior Labour frontbenchers to resign rather than back the deal.
The 1,246-page pact prevents tariffs and quotas being slapped on the £668bn-a-year of UK-EU trade after Brexit.
But there is growing anger among fishermen who fear they will be “absolutely worse off” as a result of the Government’s deal with the EU.
National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations chairman Andrew Locker said the industry had been “betrayed” by the Prime Minister.
“Boris Johnson promised us the rights to all the fish that swim in our exclusive economic zone and we have got a fraction of that,” he said.
“We are absolutely worse off. When we were within the EU we used to trade fish with the EU.
“We used to swap things we didn’t use with fish that they didn’t use and that enabled us to put together an annual fishing plan.
“What we have got now is a fraction of what we were promised through Brexit.
“We are going to really, really struggle this year.”