On Sunday, an EU diplomat said: “The EU will take the decision to provisionally apply the EU-UK agreement by written procedure. EU ambassadors are expected to initiate the process tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, Conservative Eurosceptics are poring over the details of the Brexit trade agreement with the EU as Boris Johnson tried to persuade them it is the “right deal” for the nation.
Scrutiny of the treaty began in earnest when the 1,246-page document was officially published on the morning of Boxing Day – less than a week before its implementation.
It was quickly met with severe criticism from those working in the fishing industry who said they had been “sacrificed” in order to secure the deal with Brussels.
The Prime Minister acknowledged to Tory MPs that “the devil is in the detail” but insisted it would stand up to inspection from the European Research Group (ERG) of Brexiteers.
The group has convened a self-styled “star chamber” of lawyers led by veteran Eurosceptic MP Sir Bill Cash to examine the full text ahead of a Commons vote.
The senior Conservative backbencher said No 10 sent him the treaty by courier on Saturday morning and that his team are in “constant communication”.
In his first interview since brokering the agreement, Mr Johnson denied the UK would regress on workers’ rights and environmental standards, two issues both sides have committed to uphold in the deal.
Mr Johnson told the Sunday Telegraph: “All that’s really saying is the UK won’t immediately send children up chimneys or pour raw sewage all over its beaches. We’re not going to regress, and you’d expect that.”
He said that Chancellor Rishi Sunak is “doing a big exercise” on business taxes and regulation alongside a “great Government effort” for new plans for after the transition period ends on December 31.
But Mr Johnson said it “perhaps would not have been fruitful” to discuss them publicly during negotiations, as he listed animal welfare regulations, data and chemicals, alongside existing plans to establish low-tax freeports.
The Prime Minister did, however, acknowledge that the treaty “perhaps does not go as far as we would like” over access to EU markets for financial services.
But Mr Sunak said the nation will be able to “do things a bit differently” now, referencing new opportunities for the sector, and said the deal should leave those anxious about the financial impact “enormously reassured”.
“I actually think this deal can represent an enormously unifying moment for our country and bring people together after the divisions of the past few years,” he told broadcasters.
It comes as fishing industry leaders have come out to criticise the deal.
The chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisation (NFFO), Barrie Deas, accused Mr Johnson of having “bottled it” on fishing quotas to secure only “a fraction of what the UK has a right to under international law”.
Mr Deas said the Prime Minister had “sacrificed” fishing to other priorities, with the subject proving to be an enduring sticking point during negotiations as they raced to get a deal by the end of the transition period on December 31.
The share of fish in British waters that the UK can catch will rise from about half now to two-thirds by the end of the five-and-a-half-year transition.