Brexit Trade Deal Approved by UK House of Commons

December 30, 2020 Updated: December 30, 2020

British MPs on Wednesday voted to approve the UK–EU agreement on post-Brexit trade and cooperation, which is set to 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.

The House of Commons approved the EU (Future Relationship) Bill by 521 votes to 73. The bill will now be debated and voted on in the House of Lords, whose support is also needed before it becomes law.

Once passed, the bill will enable the UK government to ratify the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreements reached on Christmas Eve.

The 1,240-page agreement was signed by EU leaders on Wednesday morning and was then flown to London by a Royal Air Force plane to be signed by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Before the Commons vote, Johnson urged Parliament to back the deal, saying it will resolve the “vexed question” of Britain’s relations with Europe.

“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.”

The main opposition Labour Party backed the deal despite finding it unsatisfactory.

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 would 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.”