The European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly to approve the UK and European Union’s post-Brexit trade deal.
Before voting on the Trade and Co-operation Agreement reached with the prime minister on Christmas Eve, Brussels politicians were told by the European Commission president that the deal has “real teeth”.
Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc would not hesitate to take action if the UK breached the agreed terms, which govern the way the UK and EU deal with each other.
The deal has been applied provisionally since January 1 but required the approval of MEPs before it can be ratified.
During the debate, MEPs were critical of Johnson’s use of the protocol since it came into force.
“When I grew up, UK diplomacy was for me a symbol of credibility,” said Manfred Weber, the German leader of the centre-right EPP Group. “Today, when we see the Northern Ireland Protocol implementation and how Johnson behaves, the message is ‘I don’t care, I don’t care even about my signature’.
“That’s the new Great Britain we have as a partner on our side.”
It was a view echoed by Green leader Philippe Lamberts, who said the prime minister was “not necessarily as good as his word” and “if we have violence in Northern Ireland it’s because of the lies of prime minister Johnson”.
But European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic welcomed the vote.
“Democratic scrutiny will continue to be key in its implementation,” he said.
“And unity among EU institutions and across member states will remain a cornerstone of our EU-UK relations.”
European Council president Charles Michel said the approval of the deal “marks a major step forward” in UK-EU relations and “opens a new era”.
He said Brussels will work constructively with the UK as an “important friend and partner”.
UK Brexit minister Lord Frost said he hoped the vote would mark the beginning of a “new chapter” in UK-EU relations.
He said he “hugely” welcomed the overwhelming vote in favour of the trade deal.
“Hope we can now begin a new chapter together as Europeans, characterised by friendly co-operation between sovereign equals,” he added.