EU: agreement ratified, Brexit sealed

The EU Parliament on Wednesday voted to ratify the EU-UK trade deal which was agreed in December 2020, shortly before the Brexit transition period ended. The Parliament had delayed ratification amid a dispute with London over customs controls in Northern Ireland. Commentators are relieved that despite persistent tensions the wrangling has now come to an end.

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Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Reconciliation will take time

Relations between the EU and the UK have suffered considerably, Hospodářské noviny comments:

“The words of praise and relief were to be expected. After all, this is the official end of almost five years of difficult negotiations. However, these fine words could not conceal the sour tone of the preceding debate that lasted several hours. ... As with other decades-long partnerships, at best it will be years before relations return to normal after the break-up - and if so, only because Britain and the European Union remain in the same place on the map.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Poison in the system

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung also sees the debate as an indication of how toxic relations between the EU and the UK have become:

“Prime Minister Boris Johnson is believed to be capable of anything, but nothing good. There are doubts about whether he will adhere to the agreement - and not without reason; Johnson has done much to fuel these doubts. The EU's threats that London will be punished immediately for any breaches of the agreement are not the music one would wish for a new beginning. But that's the way things are when there is poison in the system.”

Delo (SI) /

Northern Ireland as the key challenge

The biggest challenge for future relations between the bloc and the UK will be Northern Ireland, where the EU's external border now lies, says Delo:

“The Northern Ireland authorities are now obliged to check imports of certain goods from other parts of the island. This is leading to a feeling, especially in pro-British ranks, that Northern Ireland got the short end of the stick in the Brexit negotiations. The British and European sides will have to prove in the coming years that this is not the case. ... Neither London nor Brussels can afford to put particular interests before the preservation of peace and stability in what is still the most problematic part of Europe. There is simply too much at stake.”

Irish Independent (IE) /

Worst-case scenario has been avoided

The Irish Independent, by contrast, is firmly optimistic:

“The flashpoint checks on goods coming into the North from England, Scotland and Wales are being better managed as traders become more knowledgeable about procedures. ... Let us not neglect two other good news spin-offs from the Euro MEPs' endorsement of the EU-UK trade deal today. One is that there is no return of a hard Border in Ireland, the other is that the final fear of a crash-out Brexit with tariffs and quotas on Irish-UK trade is now definitively banished.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

Goodbye, London!

It's already obvious that without the UK, the EU is more agile, editor-in-chief Jordi Juan surmises in La Vanguardia:

“It seems clear that many of the decisions made in the EU Commission in recent months would have been far more complicated if the British were still part of the governing body in Brussels. There is still much to be done before the EU starts acting jointly and in unison on important aspects of government, but the recovery fund has been one of the best and most wise decisions ever taken. If we recall the tensions with the countries known as the frugal states, just imagine what would have happened if London had intervened in the debate. Now we are going our separate ways, and good luck to us all. Goodbye, London!”