European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has sent a warning to the UK and Boris Johnson if the Prime Minister breaches Brexit trade deal terms.

The European Union’s top official said she hopes the EU will not have to use the measures contained within the agreement.

However, she expressed concerns in the EU that the UK has not yet fully complied with the terms of the earlier Brexit divorce deal and stressed that “vigilance” will be required in future.

The Brexit deal has been applied provisionally since January 1 but requires the approval of MEPs before it can be ratified.

Ms von der Leyen was addressing the European Parliament as MEPs prepared to vote on the Trade and Co-operation Agreement reached with Mr Johnson on Christmas Eve.

Ms von der Leyen said: “We know it will not always be easy and there is a lot of vigilance, diligence and hard work ahead.

“But, while today’s vote is obviously an end, it is also the beginning of a new chapter.

“The choice is now whether today’s vote will be the high-water mark of the EU-UK relations for the next decades, or whether we see this as the foundation of a strong and close partnership based on our shared values and interests.

“Only history will tell what road is taken – although I hope for the latter.”

Oxford Mail: Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen. (PA)Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen. (PA)

Relations between the UK and EU have been strained over the application of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which governs the post-Brexit arrangements aimed at preventing a hard border with Ireland and was part of the divorce deal signed in January 2020.

Much of the disruption and controversy created by the protocol relates to the fact that Great Britain has left the Single Market for goods, while Northern Ireland remains in the EU regulatory zone.

Ms von der Leyen said there is a need for “joint solutions” as “unilateral decisions will get us nowhere”.

She said there has been “some progress” in talks between commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic and the UK’s Brexit Minister Lord Frost.

“In recent days and weeks, we have seen a new, constructive dynamic and we will continue to work closely with the UK to find constructive solutions that respect what was agreed,” she told MEPs.

“The next step is to mutually agree on compliance paths, with concrete deadlines and milestones.”

She added: “We need solutions, not soundbites, if we are to make the protocol work for the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland.”

Oxford Mail: Michel Barnier said the EU needs to understand the ‘social anger’ that led to the Brexit vote (Olivier Hoslet/AP)Michel Barnier said the EU needs to understand the ‘social anger’ that led to the Brexit vote (Olivier Hoslet/AP)

Michel Barnier, who led the EU’s negotiations with the UK, said Brexit is a sign of political failure for the bloc.

“This is a divorce. It’s a warning, Brexit, and it’s a failure – a failure of the European Union,” he said.

“And we have to learn lessons from it as politicians here in the European Parliament, in council, in the Commission, in all of the capitals.

“Why did 52% of the British vote against Europe? There are reasons for that – social anger and tension which existed in many regions in the UK but also in many regions of the EU.

“Our duty is to listen and understand the feelings of the people.”