Two important committees of MEPs have endorsed the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) in a significant step towards the deal being ratified by the EU.
Although the UK has already approved the deal, the European Parliament delayed signing off the agreement, citing the need for proper translations of the legal text to be completed.
NI Protocol backdrop
The delay to ratification also came against the backdrop of Brussels launching legal action against the UK after the British government unilaterally extended grace periods for new rules for trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The EU said this breached the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol which formed part of the Withdrawal Agreement signed in 2019.
‘Constructive’ dinner talks
The UK’s cabinet minister for EU relations, Lord Frost, met with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic yesterday evening to discuss UK plans for implementing the Protocol while minimising trade friction in the region.
Frost today (16 April) said that the talks had been “constructive” and “productive”, generating momentum towards a solution being agreed by both sides, according to the Guardian.
No unilateral action
A statement from Sefcovic this morning, agreed that the “meeting took place in a constructive, solution-driven atmosphere” but warned that “the implementation of the Protocol is a joint endeavour, which leaves no space for unilateral action”.
Sefcovic added that the Commission’s ongoing legal action against the UK would continue for as long as necessary.
The TCA has now passed through the European parliament’s foreign affairs and trade committees with an emphatic 108 votes in its favour, reports Politico.
Only one committee member voted against the deal.
However, no final date for ratification has been set as the EU waits to see progress on how the UK applies the rules of both the trade deal and the Withdrawal Agreement.
Border post delay
Continued UK-EU talks come amid reports from the BBC that the building of new Irish Sea border posts, for conducting checks on trade between Britain and Northern Ireland, could be delayed by two years.
Checks are currently being run from temporary posts at various ports.
Proposals for permanent posts, which could cost up to £50m to build, will not be ready until October, a Stormont committee was told.