The UK government agreed Tuesday (23 February) to allow the European Union more time to formally ratify the post-Brexit trade deal which came into effect on January 1.
“We have agreed to extend the deadline for the EU to ratify the deal until 30 April,” a British spokesman said, after Brussels requested a delay.
According to the trade agreement under which Britain completed its withdrawal from the EU single market, the EU’s ratification was supposed to be done this week.
But EU member states have requested more time to prepare legally valid translations of the treaty so it is usable in all 24 official languages of the bloc, and the European Parliament wants to examine it before voting.
It is currently in force under provisional authorisation in the EU.
Britain already ratified the agreement on December 30. MPs approved the agreement on the same day they received it.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has been reluctant to allow Brussels more time.
“It is disappointing the EU has not completed its internal processes in the agreed timeframe,” the British spokesperson said, warning of uncertainty for cross-Channel businesses.
“We expect the EU to meet the new timeline.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Germany’s minister for European Affairs Michael Roth said ahead of a meeting of EU ministers that the process would continue.
“We are in the process of ratifying the trade and cooperation agreement which has already been provisionally applied since January 1,” he said.
“We will prolong this provisional application until the end of April in order to allow for the consent of the European Parliament and the conclusion of the legal ‘scrubbing’ of all language versions.”
In a letter to EU Vice President Maroš Šefčovič, who is representing the bloc in implementation talks, senior UK minister Michael Gove complained about the delay.
“Provisionally applying the Agreement was not the United Kingdom’s preferred outcome given the uncertainty it creates for individuals and businesses,” he said.
“Extending the period of provisional application prolongs that uncertainty.”
British exporters and cross-Channel freight hauliers have encountered severe delays and disruption since Britain departed the EU market.
But European leaders see this as the inevitable consequence of the UK government’s decision to pursue a clean break from EU rules in the wake of the 2016 Brexit referendum.