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EU finalizes post-Brexit trade deal

The EU has ratified the bitterly debated trade deal between the bloc and its former member, Britain. The bare bones deal was agreed last-minute in December last year.

The European Parliament building in Strasbourg

The vote on the deal was delayed after the UK unilaterally postponed implementing cross-border checks on goods from Northern Ireland

The European Parliament has given its formal approval of the trade deal agreement between the EU and the UK, officials said Wednesday.

The vote took place late Tuesday and its passing came as no surprise with 660 votes in favor and only 5 against, but many EU lawmakers have expressed their disappointment with the final deal.

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) was the result of nine long months of negotiations and set up a relationship of zero tariffs and zero quotas on goods traded between the EU and UK.

How did EU officials respond?

President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen both "warmly" welcomed the result of the vote.

Von der Leyen wrote on Twitter that the deal "marks the foundation of a strong and close partnership with the UK."

Michel said that the EU "will continue to work constructively with the UK as an important friend and partner."

Leading Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt tweeted on Wednesday morning that the European Parliament had approved "the EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement!"

"The first trade deal in history to put up barriers & remove freedoms? A failure for both sides, but better than nothing. I still believe one day an ambitious young politician will want the UK in the EU again," he added.

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier called the passing of the deal "an important step" and said that the fall in trade between the two partners shows that "the economy needs reliable rules. That's why the new trade and cooperation agreement is important for both sides."

What was the reaction from the UK?

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also welcomed the vote, saying that it is now time for Britain "to look forward to the future."

"This week is the final step in a long journey, providing stability to our new relationship with the EU as vital trading partners, close allies and sovereign equals," Johnson said.

Britain's chief Brexit negotiator David Frost said that both sides had "worked tirelessly to agree a deal based on friendly cooperation and free trade."

He added that Tuesday's vote "brings certainty and allows us to focus on the future. There will be much for us and the EU to work on together through the new Partnership Council and we are committed to working to find solutions that work for both of us."

How are relations between the UK and the EU since Brexit?

Trade between the two sides has plummeted since the break came into effect on January 1, with EU imports from the UK down almost 50% and exports to the UK down 20% during the first two months.

The EU also launched a legal dispute against the UK after Westminster unilaterally extended a grace period for not conducting checks on goods being transported between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The two sides have yet to find common ground on how to implement the so-called Northern Ireland protocol which aims to protect the single market while avoiding a hard border with EU member Ireland.

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