The Brexit trade deal will not be fully approved by the EU until the end of April, after the UK reluctantly agreed to a two-month delay.
Ministers had resisted the move, insisting the “provisional application” given in December should end this month and warning about the “uncertainty” created.
Although Michael Gove gave the go-ahead, he said the new ‘partnership council’ – which businesses hope will ease the crisis caused by the Christmas Eve agreement – should not “begin work” until ratification is completed.
Brussels, unlike the UK, gave the deal only provisional approval after the frenzied negotiations continued into the final days of 2020 and the European Parliament refused to rush it through.
It has allowed the new trading arrangements to be applied in practice, even though the European Parliament and the EU Council of national leaders have not yet signed it off.
The request for delay flowed from the need to make the text available in all 24 EU languages, for scrutiny by the Parliament and the national governments.
Brussels has played down any fears of the deal lapsing – but some believe any delay creates a vacuum in which the growing tensions over the Northern Ireland Protocol could fester.