The UK agreed to let the EU delay ratification of their post-Brexit trade deal by a month, bringing more uncertainty to the fragile start to their new relationship.
In a letter to the European Commission on Tuesday, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said that he expected the EU “should be able to satisfy its internal requirements” by the end of April.
Mr Gove said the UK “would therefore not be asked to further extend the period of provisional application".
The agreement on trade, security and fisheries was signed on December 24, only days before Britain left the EU’s single market and Customs union.
The commission applied the deal provisionally to give the European Parliament, which has the power to veto the entire accord, until the end of February to scrutinise it.
While the parliamentary vote would normally be regarded as a formality, the EU’s growing concerns over what the UK might do to deal with problems surrounding trade with Northern Ireland mean members could threaten to withhold their approval.
“We are now 10 weeks into the reality of our new relationship with the UK,” Maros Sefcovic, the EU commissioner in charge of overseeing the Brexit deal's introduction, said in Brussels.
“We have already seen some of the changes brought about by this and I think it is clear to everyone now that our partnership with the UK does not replicate or resemble its former membership of the EU.”
Trade arrangements for Northern Ireland were one of the most contentious parts of the UK’s negotiations and have caused new disputes since the Brexit process was finalised at the end of 2020.
With goods travelling into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK facing delays at the border, Britain is seeking to delay the implementation of full Customs checks on medicine, parcels and food supplies to supermarkets until 2023.
The EU has already indicated that it would refuse this request.