Boris Johnson’s EU trade deal clears the House of Commons

The Bill now goes to the House of Lords, where the debate is expected to continue until around 10.30pm on Wednesday.

Boris Johnson’s EU trade deal clears the House of Commons Paul Grover via Getty Images
Prime Minister: Boris Johnson's EU trade deal has cleared the House of Commons.

Boris Johnson’s EU trade deal has cleared the House of Commons, as the Government seeks to rush approval through Parliament in a single day.

After little over four hours’ debate, MPs voted by 521 to 73 to give the European Union (Future Relationship) Bill, ratifying the deal finally agreed on Christmas Eve, a third reading.

The Bill now goes to the House of Lords, where the debate is expected to continue until around 10.30pm on Wednesday.

If, as expected, it passes the upper chamber, it will then go to the Queen for royal assent, with an announcement expected around midnight.

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That would pave the way for the deal to take effect at 11pm on Thursday when the current Brexit transition period, during which the UK has continued to follow EU rules, ends.

Opening the debate in the Commons, the Prime Minister said the deal would enable the UK to trade and cooperate with the EU on the “closest possible terms” while taking “sovereign control of our laws and our national destiny”.

He said he hoped it would end the “old, desiccated, tired, super-masticated arguments” which have dogged the country for years and enable it to move forwards to a “new and great future”.

“It embodies our vision shared with our European neighbours of a new relationship between Britain and the EU as sovereign equals joined by friendship, commerce, history interests and values while respecting one another’s freedom of action,” he said.

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“We are going to open a new chapter in our national story, striking free trade deals around the world and reasserting global Britain as a liberal, outward-looking force for good.”

Labour backed the deal, despite misgivings from some pro-European MPs who said they would be abstaining or voting against.

However, party leader Sir Keir Starmer said that while the agreement is “thin” with “many flaws”, the alternative is to leave the EU single market and customs union with no agreement, pushing up prices and driving businesses to the wall.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

However, the SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, condemned the deal as “an act of economic vandalism” and attacked Labour for failing to oppose it.

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He later stated independence is now “the only way to protect Scotland’s place in Europe”.

Commenting after the vote, Blackford said: “The only way to protect Scotland’s place in Europe now is to become an independent country. 

“The people of Scotland have the right to determine our own future as an independent European nation – instead of having this extreme Tory Brexit imposed against our will.

“Scotland has been completely ignored by Westminster throughout the Brexit process – and we are being forced to pay a devastating price. 

“Boris Johnson’s deal is a disaster for Scotland – terminating our membership of the EU, ripping us out of the world’s largest single market and customs union, ending our freedom of movement rights, and imposing more costs, red tape and barriers for businesses.

“Brexit has already cost Scotland billions of pounds. This Tory hard Brexit could cut Scotland’s GDP by 6.1% – costing us £9bn, the equivalent of £1600 for every person in Scotland. This long-term damage is as unacceptable as it is completely unnecessary.

“Every broken promise made by Westminster has now been utterly exposed – from the damage done to our economy, the rights that have been stripped away, and the lies told to our farming and fishing communities.

“It is shameful that the Labour Party lined up behind Boris Johnson to impose a hard Tory Brexit on Scotland – and consistently failed to provide any opposition or alternative.

“Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU but our decision was dismissed, and every attempt at compromise has been ignored – proving beyond doubt that Scotland will never be treated as an equal partner in the UK.

“There is now an empty seat at the top table in Europe but it won’t be empty for long. Scotland has the opportunity to choose a fairer future at the heart of Europe as an independent country.”

The Scottish Parliament later voted to refuse legislative consent for the agreement.

MSPs voted by 92 to 30 to say the deal would “cause severe damage to Scotland’s environmental, economic and social interests”, following a debate at Holyrood.