Boris Johnson hails ‘new chapter in national story’ ahead of Brexit deal vote

PA

The UK will “open a new chapter in our national story”, Boris Johnson has claimed as MPs prepare to vote on his Brexit deal.

On Wednesday, Parliament will be recalled to give its ruling on the trade agreement reached more than four years after the In/Out referendum in 2016.

The EU (Future Relationship) Bill is expected to clear the Commons with the Conservatives and the majority of Labour MPs set to support it, although the SNP, the DUP, Plaid Cymru, the SDLP, Alliance and the Liberal Democrats have all indicated they will not vote for it.

But Mr Johnson has insisted that the deal means the UK will be “the best friend and ally the EU could have”, whilst fulfilling the “sovereign wish” of the British people to live under their own laws.

In a Commons speech, he will tell MPs: “The central purpose of the Bill is to accomplish something which the British people always knew in their hearts could be done, but which we were told was impossible.

“Namely that we could trade and cooperate with our European neighbours on the closest terms of friendship and goodwill, whilst retaining sovereign control of our laws and our national destiny.”

A Commons debate will start at around 9.30am, with a vote expected in the early afternoon.

Following proceedings in the Commons, the legislation will be debated by peers in the House of Lords, with a vote expected after 10pm, with Royal Assent to follow afterwards if it is passed.

Approval is also expected to be given to enable virtual participation for debates and proceedings on the Bill.

The Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Senedd and the Stormont Executive in Northern Ireland will also all sit on Wednesday to consider the legislation.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already urged MSPs not to consent to the Bill, with Scottish Labour also confirming they will vote against the deal – contrary to the UK party at Westminster.

The SNP’s Westminster deputy leader Kirsten Oswald MP said: “Boris Johnson’s extreme Tory Brexit deal is a disaster for Scotland, which will cause long-term damage to jobs, businesses and the economy at the worst possible time.”

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has described deal as “thin and disappointing” and warned it will make trade with European markets more difficult and expensive.

He has also accused the UK Government of “cultural vandalism” by withdrawing from the Erasmus student exchange programme.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson

It comes after the Prime Minister won the backing of Brexiteer backbenchers, who said the agreement “preserves the UK’s sovereignty”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has urged his MPs to support the deal, despite concerns that it will fail to protect key economic sectors.

He could face a high-profile revolt over his decision to back the agreement, with former shadow chancellor John McDonnell among those to have signed a letter urging opposition parties not to support the “rotten” agreement.

The Labour leader has argued however that the alternative of ending the Brexit transition period on December 31 without a deal in place would be even worse for the economy.

In an interview with the Guardian, Sir Keir said that allowing the remain/leave argument to close is among the reasons his party will vote for the deal.

He told the newspaper: “I’m determined the next general election will be fought on our terms, not somebody else’s terms.

“We’ve left the EU and the remain/leave argument is over. Amongst the reasons for voting for the deal is to allow that closure.

“In our general election campaign in 2024, we will be a future-looking Labour party and a future Labour government, not one that looks behind us.”

Opening the debate in the Commons, Mr Johnson is expected to pledge the UK will be the “best friend and ally the EU could have”.

He will tell MPs: “We will now open a new chapter in our national story, striking free trade deals around the world, adding to the agreements with 63 countries we have already achieved, and reasserting Global Britain as a liberal, outward-looking force for good.

“Those of us who campaigned for Britain to leave the EU never sought a rupture with our closest neighbours.

“We would never wish to rupture ourselves from fellow democracies beneath whose soil lie British war graves in tranquil cemeteries, often tended by local schoolchildren, testament to our shared struggle for freedom and everything we cherish in common.

He will continue: “What we sought was not a rupture but a resolution, a resolution of the old and vexed question of Britain’s political relations with Europe, which bedevilled our post-War history.

“First we stood aloof, then we became a half-hearted, sometimes obstructive member of the EU.

“Now, with this Bill, we shall be a friendly neighbour, the best friend and ally the EU could have, working hand in glove whenever our values and interests coincide while fulfilling the sovereign wish of the British people to live under their own laws, made by their own elected Parliament.

“That is the historic resolution delivered by this Bill.”

On Monday, EU ambassadors gave provisional approval for Britain’s post-Brexit trade deal to be implemented from January 1.

The move paves the way for the agreement which allows for the continued tariff-free trade with the EU single market to take effect when the current Brexit transition period expires on Thursday.

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