Happy Brexit Day... Boris signs deal with EU
MPs unanimously approved the UK's post-Brexit trade deal with the EU in yesterday’s parliamentary vote; a bill that brings the deal into UK law was backed by the Commons by 521 to 73 votes after Parliament was recalled for a one day emergency sitting. The majority of Labour MPs voted for the agreement after leader Sir Keir Starmer said a "thin deal was better than no deal".
The UK will officially sever its ties with the EU at 11.00pm tonight, four and a half years after the Brexit referendum, and after 11 months in transition. The House of Lords also passed the bill, which will now receive Royal Assent from the Queen.
Boris Johnson thanked MPs for passing the bill, saying: "The destiny of this great country now resides firmly in our hands." The agreement hammered out with Brussels over nine months sets out a new business and security relationship between the UK and its biggest trading partner.
The EU (Future Relationship) Bill was rushed through Parliament in a single day after five hours of debate in the Commons, it passed its two legislative hurdles by huge margins, thanks to the Prime Ministers large majority and the support of the Labour Party.
Johnson said that the treaty would allow the UK to "go our own way but also have free trade with the EU.” He said: "There will be changes, and we've been very clear with people that they have to get ready for January 1st, as things will work differently. But from the point of view of UK exporters, for instance, they'll now have the advantage, that they'll only have one set of forms they have to fill out for export around the whole world."
Offering his backing, Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, who campaigned against Brexit, told MPs he wanted to "avoid a no deal and put in place a floor from which we can build a strong future relationship". But he did accuse Boris Johnson of not being honest with the public about the deal, which he said would lead to an "avalanche of checks, bureaucracy and red tape for British businesses", and that there was also a "gaping hole" in the agreement when it came to the service sector, which accounts for about 80% of the UK's economic output.
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In his Commons speech, the Prime Minister said the bill heralded 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 and recognising that we have nothing to fear if we sometimes choose to do things differently".
Finally he signed the international treaty ratifying the deal in Downing Street, after it was flown across the Channel in an RAF plane. EU President, Ursula von der Leyen, and European Council President, Charles Michel, both signed the document earlier in Brussels.
The European Parliament has now begun its scrutiny of the agreement but will not get a chance to ratify it before the UK leaves the EU single market and customs union at 11.00pm tonight. The deal has, however, already been given the unanimous backing of ambassadors from the 27 nations, and the member states gave their written approval on Tuesday.