British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday urged Parliament to back the UK–EU agreement on post-Brexit trade relations, saying that the deal will resolve the “vexed question” of Britain’s relations with Europe.
If passed, as is expected, the deal will come into effect on Jan. 1, when the UK exits the EU’s single market and customs union at the end of the Brexit transition period.
Addressing Parliament, Johnson hailed the “fantastic new relationship” the UK is forging with the EU.
“Having taken back control of our money, our borders, our laws, and our waters by leaving the European Union on Jan. 31, we now seize the moment to forge a fantastic new relationship with our European neighbours, based on free trade and friendly cooperation,” he told lawmakers.
Johnson hailed the deal as “one of the biggest free trade agreements in the world” that will “safeguard millions of jobs and livelihoods in our UK and across the continent.”
The central purpose of the bill, he said, is to enable the UK to “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.”
Johnson said that he and other pro-Brexit politicians “never sought a rupture with our closest neighbours.”
Instead, what Brexiteers like him wanted was “a resolution of the old, tired, vexed question of Britain’s political relations with Europe, which has bedevilled our post-War history.”
“Now, with this Bill, we are going to become 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,” the prime minister said.
British MPs are expected to pass the agreement, because the main opposition Labour Party has said it will support the deal.
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said the deal is a “thin agreement” that doesn’t provide adequate protection to British businesses and workers, but Labour will vote for it because it was better than no deal at all.
The deal has also won support from the European Research Group (ERG), a group of staunchly pro-Brexit lawmakers in Johnson’s Conservative Party who see close ties to the EU as a threat to British sovereignty.
The group’s Legal Advisory Committee delivered its opinion on the deal on Tuesday, saying that “it is consistent the [sic] sovereignty of the United Kingdom,” ERG Deputy Chairman David Jones wrote on Twitter.