EU governments approve Brexit trade deal - German EU presidency

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FILE PHOTO: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas address the media during a joint news conference after a meeting in Berlin

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union governments approved on Tuesday a trade deal regulating relations between the 27-nation bloc and Britain, paving the way for its provisional application from Jan 1, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

The deal, which preserves Britain's zero-tariff and zero-quota access to the EU's single market of 450 million consumers, was reached on Dec 24, 4-1/2 years after Britons voted by a slim margin in a referendum to leave the bloc.

"I am pleased that all EU 27 have given approval. By joining forces, we have succeeded in preventing a chaotic turn of the year," Maas, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said on Twitter.

The approval is a formality after a deal between London and the EU last week. It is needed for the provisional application of the trade agreement from next year, before it is ratified by the European Parliament by the end of February.

The provisional trade deal is to be signed by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the chairman of EU leaders Charles Michel on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by John Chalmers and Jonathan Oatis)