politics

Brexit deal set to be approved as Boris Johnson hails ‘new chapter’ for UK


B

oris Johnson is to hail the start of a “new chapter” in British history as his long-awaited Brexit deal looks set to get the green light.

MPs and peers will vote on the EU (Future Relationship) Bill on Wednesday so that the legislation can be rushed through with just hours to spare until the end of the transition period.

The Prime Minister’s hopes for the Bill’s approval were given a boost on Tuesday, when Brexiteer backbenchers gave the deal their blessing after concluding that the agreement “preserves the UK’s sovereignty”.

In a speech to the Commons before the crunch Westminster vote, Mr Johnson is expected to tell MPs that the central purpose of the legislation is to “accomplish something which the British people always knew in their hearts could be done, but which we were told was impossible”.

He will say: “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.”

<p>A man waves both a Union flag and a European flag together on College Green during an anti-Brexit protest in 2016</p>
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A man waves both a Union flag and a European flag together on College Green during an anti-Brexit protest in 2016

/ AFP via Getty Images )

Mr Johnson will continue: “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.

“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.”

He will conclude: “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.”

The European Union (Future Relationship) Bill is expected to pass, despite the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the DUP, the SDLP, Alliance and the Liberal Democrats all indicating that they will not support it.

Meanwhile, a self-styled “star chamber” of lawyers – led by senior Tory Sir Bill Cash and assembled by the European Research Group (ERG) – gave the deal their backing.

In a statement, they said the agreement “preserves the UK’s sovereignty as a matter of law and fully respects the norms of international sovereign-to-sovereign treaties”.

The backing of the ERG would have been welcomed by the Prime Minister, who could have faced a rebellion on his backbenches without their support.

However, if they had failed to back the deal, it would likely have still passed comfortably with Labour support.

Brexit countdown: 2 days until the end of the transition period

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell and ex-cabinet minister Ben Bradshaw are among the signatories to a statement calling on opposition parties not to support the “rotten” agreement.

The DUP, which backed Brexit, has also said it will oppose the deal because the Brexit divorce settlement imposes customs checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The Commons is expected to spend five hours scrutinising the 80-page Bill, though peers will likely sit late into the evening debating the legislation.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, the deal will be signed in Brussels by EU chiefs before being flown by an RAF plane to London for Mr Johnson to sign.

An RAF plane will transport the treaty, accompanied by UK and EU officials, and the document is expected to be signed by the Prime Minister in Downing Street on Wednesday afternoon.



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