Brexit: Boris Johnson praises work of negotiator David Frost
MPs returned from their Christmas holidays for an emergency debate today to vote on the EU trade agreement ahead of the UK’s departure from the transition period tomorrow night. After five hours of debate, MPs voted by 521 to 73 to approve the trade deal.
The trade agreement received the large support after both the Labour Party and the backbench Tory hardline eurosceptics, the European Research Group, vowed to vote in favour of the deal.
The Bill will now move to the House of Lords to be debated by peers before a vote tonight.
If passed in both houses, it will be given Royal Assent and become law late tonight or in the early hours of tomorrow morning.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer ordered his MPs to support the deal in today’s Commons vote despite describing it as “thin” and with “many flaws”.
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He added: “There’s only one choice today, which is to vote for implementing this deal or to vote for no deal.
“Those that vote no, are voting for no deal.
“This is the nub of it: those voting no today want yes. They want others to save them from their own vote. Voting no, wanting yes, that’s the truth of the situation and that’s why my party has taken a different path.”
The SNP, Liberal Democrats, and DUP all voted against the deal.
The Scottish National Party’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, described the agreement as a “bad Brexit deal”, while the Lib Dems’ Ed Davey said: “This deal will make British people poorer and British people less safe.”
The debate this morning was opened by the Prime Minister, who used his statement to praise the deal for opening a new chapter for the UK.
He said: “At the heart of this Bill is one of the biggest free trade agreements in the world, a comprehensive Canada-style deal, worth over £660 billion, which, if anything, should allow our companies to do even more business with our European friends, safeguarding millions of jobs and livelihoods in our UK and across the continent.
“In less than 48 hours, we will leave the EU single market and the customs union, as we promised and yet British exporters will not face a sudden thicket of trade barriers, but rather, for the first time in the history of EU agreements, zero tariffs and zero quotas.”
He described the trade deal as a “historic resolution” that would “open a new chapter in our national story”.
Praising the negotiators for the speed at which they agreed the pact, he added: “I hope the House will join me in commending my Noble Friend Lord Frost and every member of his team for their skill, their mastery and their perseverance in translating our vision into a practical agreement.
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“And let me also pay tribute to President Ursula von der Leyen, Michel Barnier and all our European friends for their pragmatism and foresight and for their understanding that it is profoundly in the interests of the EU to live alongside a prosperous, contented and sovereign United Kingdom.”
The deal was agreed on Christmas Eve at the 11th hour of negotiations.
After months of stalemate on the issues of fishing, state aid and fair competition, the deadlock was eventual broken after Mr Johnson and Ms von der Leyen stepped up their personal involvement in talks.
The agreement was yesterday approved by EU member states and the trade deal treaty signed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel this morning.
Marking the moment, the European Commission president said: “It has been a long road.
“It’s time now to put Brexit behind us.”
The treaty had been flown from Brussels to London on an RAF jet accompanied by UK and EU officials to deliver the document to Downing Street.
Mr Johnson will put his name on the international accord later this afternoon.
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