Johnson urges MPs to back his trade deal with Brussels

Gavin Cordon, PA Whitehall Editor
·2-min read

Boris Johnson has urged MPs to back his EU trade deal saying it will enable Britain to maintain the closest relations with its neighbours while taking control of its “national destiny”.

The Prime Minister opened the Commons debate as the Government sought to rush ratification of the agreement through Parliament in a single day.

With Labour having said it will support the EU (Future Relationship) Bill in the division lobbies, it is expected to pass comfortably in both the Commons and the Lords.

If it does, its provisions will come into force at 11pm on Thursday when the current Brexit transition period expires.

Mr Johnson told MPs that the agreement would provide “certainty” for businesses protecting jobs after months of wrangling over the terms of the UK’s final departure from Brussels.

“The purpose of this Bill is to accomplish something that the British people always knew in their hearts could be done and yet which we were continually told was impossible – we were told we could not have our cake and eat it – namely that we could trade and co-operate with our EU neighbours on the closest possible terms as we will while retaining sovereign control of our laws and our national destiny.

“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.”

Sir Keir Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer speaking during the Commons debate on the EU (Future Relationship) Bill (House of Commons/PA)

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the agreement was flawed but the alternative of ending the transition period without an agreement would be even worse.

“This is a thin deal. It has got many flaws but a thin deal is better than no deal,” he told MPs.

“Not implementing this deal would mean immediate tariffs and quotas with the EU which will push up prices and drive businesses to the wall.

“It will leave huge gaps in security, a free-for-all on workers and protections and less stability for the Northern Ireland protocol.”

Labour is alone among the opposition parties in backing agreement and Sir Keir has faced criticism from some pro-European Labour MPs who have argued the party should abstain.

Earlier in the day, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel formally signed the agreement which was finally hammered out on Christmas Eve.

Following the brief ceremony in Brussels, the documents were being flown to London by the RAF for Mr Johnson to sign.

Mr Michel said: “The agreement that we signed today is the result of months of intense negotiations in which the European Union has displayed an unprecedented level of unity.

“It is a fair and balanced agreement that fully protects the fundamental interests of the European Union and creates stability and predictability for citizens and companies”.