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EU officials give key approval for Brexit trade deal as changes loom

EU officials give key approval for Brexit trade deal as changes loom
A security officer patrols near a checkpoint at the Eurotunnel, a passageway between Britain and France. File Photo by Yoan Valat/EPA-EFE

Dec. 28 (UPI) -- EU ambassadors on Monday unanimously approved the historic Brexit trade agreement between the bloc and Britain, clearing a key procedural step that allows the deal to move forward before the transition period expires in a few days.

The ambassadors' approval Monday was expected after the trade agreement was reached last Thursday. Nonetheless, it was a critical step in resolving Britain's formal departure from the 27-member alliance 11 months ago.

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While formal ratification by European Parliament will come after the transition period ends on Thursday at midnight, British Parliament will vote this week and Britons will immediately begin to see the impact.

For example, Britain's free healthcare through the European Health Insurance card comes to an end along with cellphone roaming fees.

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"I'm sure there will be bumpy moments, but we are there in order to try to do everything we can to smooth the path," British minister Michael Gove said Monday.

"The nature of our new relationship with the EU -- outside the Single Market and Customs Union -- means that there are practical and procedural changes that businesses and citizens need to get ready for."

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Among the things that will expire with the transition period late Thursday are the free movements of persons, goods, services and currency between Britain and EU states.

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"The EU and [Britain] will form two separate markets; two distinct regulatory and legal spaces," the EU said in a statement last week.

"This will recreate barriers to trade in goods and services and to cross-border mobility and exchanges that have not existed for decades -- in both directions, affecting public administrations, businesses, citizens and stakeholders on both sides."

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