Johnson describes Christmas Brexit deal as ‘glad tidings of great joy’

PA

Boris Johnson has used a festive message to the nation to urge people to read the new Brexit trade deal after Christmas lunch on Friday.

The Prime Minister posted a video on Twitter in which he brandished the document, which has not been released in full yet, and at one point punched the air with enthusiasm at its contents.

Mr Johnson said: “Tonight, on Christmas Eve, I have a small present for anyone who may be looking for something to read in that sleepy post-Christmas lunch moment, and here it is, tidings, glad tidings of great joy because this is a deal.

“A deal to give certainty to business, travellers, and all investors in our country from January 1. A deal with our friends and partners in the EU.

“You remember the oven ready deal by which we came out on January 31, that oven ready deal was just the start – this is the feast, full of fish, by the way.

“And I believe it will be the basis of a happy and successful and stable partnership with our friends in the EU for years to come.

“So, that’s it, that’s the good news from Brussels, now for the sprouts, and a happy Christmas to you all.”

Before posting the video, Mr Johnson hailed the deal as a new beginning after securing the agreement before the UK’s final break with Brussels on New Year’s Eve.

But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer branded it a “thin” deal – though he said his party would back it in a vote, which is expected to take place in the Commons next week.

Brexit
Brexit

Frantic last-minute negotiations led to expected announcements by the two sides being continually delayed throughout Christmas Eve.

As the political drama unfolded in London and Brussels after nine months of often bitter negotiations, Mr Johnson signalled the move amounted to a fresh start for the nation.

He also claimed the historic deal had resolved the European question that has “bedevilled” British politics for generations.

In a Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson said the UK had managed to “take back control” as promised in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

The Prime Minister said: “We have taken back control of our laws and our destiny. We have taken back control of every jot and tittle of our regulation in a way that is complete and unfettered.”

Mr Johnson appeared to win the support of a number of Eurosceptic Tories ahead of the Commons debate.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen struck a more sombre note, stating: “We have finally found an agreement.

“It was a long and winding road, but we have got a good deal to show for it.

“It is fair, it is a balanced deal, and it is the right and responsible thing to do for both sides.”

There will be a five-and-a-half year transition period for the fishing industry, she indicated.

And co-operation will continue on issues including climate change, energy, security and transport.

The Christmas Eve deal came just a week before the current trading arrangements expire, with the UK leaving the single market and customs union.

Mr Johnson said the deal covers trade worth around £660 billion and means:

– Goods and components can be sold without tariffs and quotas in the EU market.

– It will allow the share of fish in British waters that the UK can catch to rise from around half now to two-thirds by the end of the five-and-a-half year transition.

– Allegations of unfair competition will be judged by an independent third-party arbitration panel with the possibility of a “proportionate” response.

But the Prime Minister acknowledged he had been forced to give ground on his demands on fishing and conceded he had not got all he wanted on the vitally important financial services sector.

Parliament will be recalled from its Christmas break to vote on the deal on December 30, though MPs have been urged not to return in person to the Commons because of the pandemic unless it is “absolutely necessary”.

It is almost certain to be approved but Mr Johnson could face opposition from hardline Brexiteers.

The Tory European Research Group has promised to convene a “star chamber” of lawyers to pore over the 500 pages of the deal.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

The agreement also has to be approved by the 27 EU members – and their diplomats will receive a Christmas Day briefing from lead negotiator Michel Barnier.

The European Parliament is unlikely to vote on the deal until the new year, meaning its application will have to be provisional until they give it the green light.

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