With a Brexit agreement finally reached, what steps do both sides need to take to ratify the deal?

File photo: EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier speaks to British PM's Europe adviser David Frost during Brexit trade talks in Brussels. August 21, 2020.
File photo: EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier speaks to British PM's Europe adviser David Frost during Brexit trade talks in Brussels. August 21, 2020. Copyright Olivier Hoslet. Pool Photo via AP, File
By Euronews
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The EU and the UK have come to an agreement on their future trading relationship, but what are the official next steps in the process to finally completing the long-running Brexit saga?


After months of negotiations, a post-Brexit trade deal has finally been reached between the EU and the UK.

But what happens now? What are the final steps towards completing Brexit once and for all?

After any type of trade deal negotiations conclude, the agreement must be ratified and this is a process that can take years.

But this isn't likely here Dr Joelle Grogan from Middlesex University London told Euronews: "These agreements take years. On average, I think it is between three to four years of just negotiations and then typically, another two years to implement.

"What we are talking about with regard to Brexit, is negotiations in one year during the transition period, ratification now in less than a month, and implementation almost immediately. This creates huge issues in regards to legal certainty."

Ratification means that the trade deal needs to be signed off by all the key players involved.

What needs to happen in the UK?

On the British side, this is the UK Parliament. Any agreement must be voted through by a majority of MPs, which was where Theresa May ran into difficulty - she effectively led a minority government.

The original Withdrawal Agreement did not please hardliners and the opponents of Brexit still saw a chance to stop it. But that was last year and this time the circumstances are different, as Maddy Thimont Jack from the Institute for Government told Euronews.

"The big difference for Boris Johnson is the fact that he’s got a working majority of 80 in the House of Commons, so you aren’t necessarily going to see the sort of close knife-edge votes in the same way," Thimont Jack said.

"Some of his backbenchers might not be happy, so you might see small-scale rebellions, but I do think it’s likely he will have the numbers to pass any deal."

What about on an EU level?

The first of the EU key players is the European Council, where unanimous support of all 27 EU leaders is required.

Next, the European Parliament will scrutinise the deal, but MEPs won't be able to amend it. They will be able to reject the deal outright, however, if it is not to their liking.

Manfred Weber, leader of the European People's Party, which is the largest political grouping in the Parliament, told Euronews that MEPs must be given time to go over any agreement.

"We will not rubber-stamp the outcome. So, we will have a serious discussion, an assessment of the substance of the agreement and then we will make our decision. And that takes time. Democracy needs time," he said.

But a vote by MEPs will no longer be possible, given the lack of time left before the end of the transition period on January 1, 2021.

Senior European lawmakers, like Weber, have said that this simply does not give them enough time to properly scrutinise the deal.

EU member states will instead have to agree to a provisional application of the deal, that would come into force on January 1.

This would then allow MEPs to scrutinise and vote on the agreement during their next session later that month.


Finally, the European Council would have to give its final sign off, essentially its conclusions.

After ratification comes implementation and with likely disruptions at the borders, as we are already seeing due to COVID-19, and potential trade disputes in the years to come, a Brexit deal might be agreed, but it is almost certainly not the last we will hear of it.

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