European Union leaders, their peers and British companies expressed their hope on Wednesday that ratification of the agreement would open a new era of cooperation, even with many points of contention still hanging between the former partners.
The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen – leaders of the main European institutions – celebrated the decision of Parliament. Michel wrote on Twitter that a “new era” in relations between the European Union and London has now begun, while von der Leyen warned that the honest application of the mechanisms stipulated in the agreement would be “necessary”.
Around the same time, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the European Parliament vote as the last step in a long journey. The British Prime Minister said: “Now is the time to look forward to a new relationship with the European Union and the United Kingdom, which is more global.”
With the approval of European Parliamentarians, trade between the UK and the European Union continues without further duties or taxes.
British Minister for Relations with the European Union David Frost stressed that the two parties can now “start a new chapter together as Europeans, marked by friendly cooperation between sovereigns on an equal footing.”
In Frost’s view – who negotiated the agreement on behalf of the British government – the support of the European Parliament engenders “certainty and allows us to focus on the future.”
German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier noted that trade between the United Kingdom and the European Union “has fallen sharply” in recent months. “This shows that companies need reliable rules. That is why the new trade and cooperation agreement is important for both parties,” he said.
British exports to the European Union plunged 5.7 billion pounds (37.5 billion Brazilian reals) in January compared to the previous month and recovered 3.7 billion pounds (24.35 billion Brazilian reals) in February. Imports also fell sharply in January, before a slight rebound in February.
The British government has played down the economic impact of Brexit, claiming that coronavirus-related restrictions have played a role in the economic downturn.
The long-term effects of Brexit on trade are yet to be seen. However, BusinessEurope – which represents companies in the European Union – said ratifying the agreement provides “legal clarity and certainty”.
“With the agreement, we want to increase legal certainty for companies and citizens, and thus, strengthen our economic ties again. This is important for the European Union, but also for the United Kingdom,” Altmire added.