Brexit: UK agrees to give EU more time to approve trade deal

The UK has agreed to give the European Union more time to approve the Brexit trade deal struck between the two sides.

The agreement was struck on Christmas Eve, just days before it came into effect on 1 January.

MPs ratified the deal in a single day – on 30 December.

But it has only been provisionally implemented, as the European Parliament argued it did not have sufficient time to scrutinise the agreement before the end of the transition period.

The EU requested an extension to the 28 February deadline, something that has now been agreed to by the UK government.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said: “Provisionally applying the agreement was not the United Kingdom’s preferred outcome given the uncertainty it creates for individuals and businesses and indeed the parties.

“Extending the period of provisional application prolongs that uncertainty.”

Mr Gove said in a letter to the European Commission’s vice president, Maros Sefcovic, that the UK expects the EU to “satisfy its internal requirements” before 30 April and “that we would therefore not be asked to further extend the period” beyond that point.

In the wake of the deal taking effect, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has acknowledged “teething problems” with trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

There have been empty shelves in some supermarkets in Northern Ireland as retailers and businesses get to grips with the new rules on importing food products from Great Britain, as well as reports of lorries being delayed and refused entry at ports.

The PM has promised to “do everything we need to do” – including potentially triggering Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol – in order to “ensure there is no barrier down the Irish Sea”.

The protocol is the part of the withdrawal agreement that governs the movement of goods.

In an effort to ensure there is no hard border on the island of Ireland, the mechanism allows Northern Ireland to remain under some EU rules.

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But this means there has to be customs declarations on goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain, including checks on some products.

The EU has in the past accused the UK government of “shortcomings” over implementing the Northern Ireland protocol.

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