After the prior assent of EP foreign affairs and trade committees, on April 27 the European Parliament has finally approved the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation agreement with 660 votes in favour, just four days ahead of the end of the ad-interim application period. The deal, which can now enter into force on May 1, has already been ratified by the UK and it is provisionally applicable since 1 January 2021, after having been agreed by the EU and the UK negotiators on December 24, 2020.
On January 1, 2021, the transition period came to an end after the UK left the European Union on January 31, 2020. Its trade relationship with the EU has been temporarily governed by the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), which establishes a free-trade area in goods and services comparable to the trade deals the EU has signed with other global partners, such as Japan.
The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement concluded between the EU and the UK sets out preferential arrangements in vital areas such as trade in goods and in services, digital economy, intellectual property rights, law enforcement and judicial cooperation. It also includes provisions on ensuring a level playing field.
Although this cannot be considered to be equivalent to the situation in the past, when the UK was still an EU Member, the Trade and Cooperation Agreement goes beyond the provisions of a crude free trade agreement and now provides a solid basis for preserving trade freedom, respect of fundamental human rights and mutual cooperation.
Having strongly advocated for a negotiated settlement which allowed the continued seamless flow of trade, ECSA’s Secretary-General Martin Dorsman stated:
“We welcome the end of a long period of uncertainty on the relationship between the EU and the UK and we highlight the pivotal role played by the maritime industry for both the EU and the UK economy. The shipping sector is crucial for the UK economy and accounts for 76% of the EU’s external trade: safeguarding trade flows between the EU and the UK is key for the recovery from the pandemic and the mutual relationship. ”