The European Parliament has voted to ratify the EU’s post-Brexit trade deal with Britain, but not before branding Brexit a “historic mistake”.
MEPs overwhelmingly approved the deal, with 660 votes to five and 32 abstentions, in a result announced this morning.
The deal was provisionally ratified by the 27 EU ambassadors in December to ensure it came into law by the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December, however MEPs wanted more time to scrutinise the 1,600-page deal.
It comes as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hit out at the UK yesterday for its role in the row over Northern Ireland, saying the EU will not hesitate to use “real teeth” to enforce the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
Parliament was expected to pass the deal, along with a resolution that was added to censure the UK over Brexit and the current situation in Northern Ireland.
It said: “the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is a historic mistake and recalls that the EU has always respected the UK’s decision while insisting that the UK must also accept the consequences of leaving the EU.”
The resolution also hits out at the lack of provisions for financial and other services in the UK-EU Brexit trade deal.
It says that “it is a logical consequence of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and in particular the ending of freedom of movement, that the opportunities for the UK’s largely service-based economy are vastly reduced.”
The UK and EU have rowed for months over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which sees Northern Ireland follow the EU’s customs union and single market rules.
This so-called border in the Irish sea has infuriated some Northern Irish unionists.
The EU last month launched legal action against the UK for deciding to unilaterally postpone checks on supermarket goods, parcels and medicines going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland until October in order to better prepare businesses.
The move, which was done without telling the EU, infuriated Brussels officials who claimed it was a breach of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
The EU’s defacto Brexit minister Lord David Frost is holding ongoing talks with European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic to come to a resolution on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Speaking to MEPs today, von der Leyen said: “This agreement comes with real teeth with a binding dispute settlement mechanism and the possibility for unilateral remedial measures where necessary.
“And let me be very clear: we do not want to have to use these tools, but we will not hesitate to use them if necessary. They are essential to ensure full compliance with the [trade and cooperation agreement], and with the withdrawal agreement, which both were negotiated in such fine details and agreed by both sides.
“Honourable members, on this point of compliance, I know that there was some reluctance in different parts of the house on whether it is right to ratify this agreement when existing commitments are not being respected by one side. I agree with you that this agreement on paper is only as good as implementation and enforcement in practice.”