The Brexit trade deal has moved a step closer to being passed, with unanimous approval granted by EU member states. The move means the agreement can come into operation on New Year’s Day – even though the European Parliament will not give its approval until February. The agreement softens the economic damage from leaving the EU – by avoiding having no deal at all – but is still expected to lower GDP by between 4 and 5 per cent, over 15 years. It means Britain and the 27-nation bloc can continue to trade in goods without tariffs or quotas, but cross-Channel traders face a mountain of costly new red tape from 1 January. The livelihoods of professionals are threatened because their qualifications will no longer be recognized in the EU and the City of London has been left in limbo.