politics

Brexit deal with EU becomes law as the Queen gives official Royal Assent


Britain’s long-awaited Brexit deal has become law after receiving the Queen’s official assent.

Boris Johnson’s EU trade agreement cleared Parliament late on Wednesday night after the Government rushed approval through the Commons and Lords in a single day.

Peers gave the European Union (Future Relationship) Bill, ratifying the deal finally agreed on Christmas Eve, an unopposed third reading.

Their approval came just hours after MPs backed the Bill by 521 to 73 at third reading, with just two Tories abstaining but Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer suffered a rebellion.



The Queen has given the deal her Royal assent

Her Majesty’s approval paves the way for the deal to take effect at 11pm on Thursday when the current Brexit transition period, during which the UK has continued to follow EU rules, ends.

It means the UK and EU will trade without tariffs and quotas.

But businesses are still braced for confusion and chaos as they get to grips with the new arrangements, despite the PM assuring the deal provides “certainty” for all firms.



Boris Johnson’s signature on the Brexit trade deal

A statement from Mr Johnson said: “The destiny of this great country now resides firmly in our hands.

“We take on this duty with a sense of purpose and with the interests of the British public at the heart of everything we do.

“11pm on the 31st December marks a new beginning in our country’s history and a new relationship with the EU as their biggest ally. This moment is finally upon us and now is the time to seize it.”




Hours earlier he told the Commons he hoped it would end the “old, desiccated, tired, super-masticated arguments” which have dogged the country for years and enable it to move forwards to a “new and great future”.

He said what had been agreed had been dismissed by some as “impossible”.

The Conservative leader added: “We were told we could not have our cake and eat it – namely that we could trade and co-operate with our EU neighbours on the closest possible terms as we will, while retaining sovereign control of our laws and our national destiny.



Labour Party leader Keir Starmer
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer

“We are going to open a new chapter in our national story, striking free trade deals around the world and reasserting global Britain as a liberal outward-looking force for good.”

Mr Starmer told his party to back the deal – 162 did so, while 37 defied the orders.

The SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, Northern Irish MPs and the Greens’ one representative voted against. Two Tories – veteran Eurosceptics Owen Paterson and John Redwood, both former Cabinet ministers – abstained.


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Despite voting for the deal, Mr Starmer tore into what he called a “thin agreement”.

He said it failed to make good on Brexiteers’ promises during the referendum campaign.

He said claims the pact would ensure there would be no checks on goods travelling between the UK and the Continent were wrong.

Mr Starmer added: “There will be an avalanche of checks, bureaucracy and red tape for British businesses.

“Every business I have spoken to knows this… It is there in black and white in the treaty.



Shadow Immigration minister Bell Ribeiro-Addy defied the whips

“There will be checks for farmers, manufacturers, for customs, on rules of origin, VAT, safety and security, plant and animal health and much more. Many British exporters will have to go through two regulatory processes to sell to existing clients in the EU.”

But he added that failing to back the agreement meant leaving with no deal at all.

But the suffered by his party prompted two junior shadow ministers, Helen Hayes and Tonia Antoniazzi, to announce they were resigning their posts on the Labour front bench as they could not support the agreement.

One Labour MP, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, defied the whips to vote against the agreement while another 36 abstained.

All the other opposition parties opposed the agreement, including the DUP, which backed Brexit but objects to provisions which mean Northern Ireland will still be subject to some EU rules.



SNP leader Ian Blackford
SNP leader Ian Blackford

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford told the Commons the European Union (Future Relationship) Act is an “act of constitutional vandalism”.

In a point of order, he said: “I rise to say that this is an act of constitutional vandalism. We’re in the position this evening that the three devolved parliaments in Edinburgh, Cardiff and in Belfast have refused to give legislative consent.

“It is the practice that this House is only supposed to legislate on matters that concern the devolved administrations with their consent.”

Tory Eurosceptics, meanwhile, were jubilant, declaring that the “battle for Brexit” had finally been won.

Veteran Sir Bill Cash said: “Like Alexander the Great, Boris has cut the Gordian Knot.”

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle announced the Queen’s approval to MPs at 12.25am on Thursday morning.

An opposition amendment criticising the “many shortcomings” of the deal was rejected by 312 votes to 213.

A Liberal Democrat attempt to prevent the legislation passing with a so-called fatal amendment was heavily defeated by 466 votes to 101, majority 365.

At Holyrood, the Scottish Parliament voted by 92 to 30 to deny the deal legislative consent, although First Minister Nicola Sturgeon acknowledged it would not affect the passage of the Bill at Westminster.



Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Earlier in the day, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel formally signed the agreement.

Following the brief ceremony in Brussels, the documents were then flown to London by the RAF where Mr Johnson put his name to it.

Mr Michel said: “It is a fair and balanced agreement that fully protects the fundamental interests of the European Union and creates stability and predictability for citizens and companies.”





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