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Boris Johnson's post-Brexit trade deal passes into UK law

Posted at Dec 31, 2020

Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit trade deal with Brussels has passed into law following a whirlwind 14-hour parliamentary process that has radically redrawn the UK’s ties with Europe.

The prime minister thanked MPs and peers for passing the European Union (future relationship) bill in one day, in a statement urging the nation to “seize” the moment when the transition period with the bloc ends at 11pm on Thursday.

It was announced that the Queen had given approval to the European Union (future relationship) bill at 12.25am on Thursday morning. Her signature puts the UK-EU agreement into British law, preventing a no-deal Brexit at 11pm on Thursday when the transition period ends.

It followed the recall of parliament for an emergency one-day session to approve the EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement, concluded by the prime minister and the European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, on Christmas Eve.

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Johnson said: “The destiny of this great country now resides firmly in our hands. We take on this duty with a sense of purpose and with the interests of the British public at the heart of everything we do.

“11pm on 31 December marks a new beginning in our country’s history and a new relationship with the EU as their biggest ally. This moment is finally upon us and now is the time to seize it.”

The House of Lords gave the bill an unopposed third reading late on Wednesday, hours after MPs had voted it through by 521 votes to 73 – a majority of 448.

The deal comes four and a half years after the Brexit referendum vote to take the UK out of the European Union, but its rapid approval has raised concerns from MPs and peers that the bill has not been properly scrutinised.

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Parliamentarians raised concerns over the document, saying it had failed to secure access to security databases, broke promises over fishing rights in UK waters and left unanswered border questions in Gibraltar and Northern Ireland.

Johnson’s deal passed through the Commons with ease with Labour’s support, though the Liberal Democrats, SNP and Democratic Unionist party voted against it. After four hours of debate, MPs voted by 521 to 73 to give the bill a third reading.

Johnson opened the Commons debate on the UK’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU shortly after 10am on Wednesday.

The prime minister told MPs the deal would redefine the UK’s relationship with the EU. “We now seize this moment to forge a fantastic new relationship with our European neighbours, based on free trade and friendly cooperation,” he said.

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“We have done this in less than a year, in the teeth of a pandemic, and we have pressed ahead with this task, resisting all calls for delay, precisely because creating certainty about our future provides the best chance of beating Covid and bouncing back even more strongly next year.”

Labour failed to amend the bill, which will bring the trade deal into force from 11pm on 31 December, to include additional protections for workers’ rights and environmental standards and support for business preparedness.

The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, described the deal as “thin”, but said Labour would back it because the alternative would be devastating for the UK.