Theresa May warns of Brexit deal holes as PM rams law through in 5 hours

Theresa May has sounded a grim warning about the holes in Boris Johnson ’s Brexit deal as it is rushed at breakneck speed through Parliament.

The Prime Minister is today ramming a law enacting his UK-EU trade deal through the Commons in just four and a half hours, with no chance of amendment.

The 1,246-page document has already been signed by EU leaders in Brussels – and was being flown on one of the Queen’s VIP planes to London.

Ex-PM Theresa May today said she would back the Future Relationship Bill – and so did Keir Starmer, despite some Labour frontbenchers being expected to resign.

But Mrs May sent a warning shot to Mr Johnson over the small print of the deal.

Boris Johnson has been sent a warning over the small print of the Brexit deal

She said she was “disappointed” about its approach to financial services, as it gives no automatic right of access between the UK and EU.

Mrs May said she pledged in 2018 to work to get a “truly ground-breaking” deal for this sector, adding: “Sadly it has not been achieved.”

She also warned a new ‘Partnership Council’, which will thrash out disputes, can carry out its vital work without any checks by the UK Parliament.

“Sovereignty does not mean isolationism,” she warned. “It does not mean we never accept someone else’s rules.”

The Tory ex-PM wagged her finger at Keir Starmer as she accused him of scuppering her bid to get a “better deal” in 2019.

But her message was also meant for new PM Boris Johnson – who voted down her deal at the time and used the ensuing chaos to get to Downing Street.

The ex-PM wagged her finger at Keir Starmer – but the message was meant for Boris Johnson too

In a thinly-veiled rebuke, she said: “Today is the time to put aside personal and party political interests – which sadly too many have followed in the past.”

Tory MPs struck down a bid to give MPs two hours to debate amendments to the Future Relationship Bill – instead giving them precisely zero minutes.

That means MPs are set to overwhelmingly back the Brexit trade deal during today’s emergency recall of Parliament.

It is expected to pass the Commons just before 3pm before being rushed through the Lords and gaining Royal Assent from the Queen just before midnight.

In a thinly-veiled rebuke, she said: “Today is the time to put aside personal and party political interests – which sadly too many have followed in the past”

Tory eurosceptics threw their weight behind the pact and Labour MPs have also been ordered to support the agreement, which allows for tariff free trade between the UK and EU.

Keir Starmer is braced for frontbench resignations from MPs in Remain-voting seats. They fear the party could end up sharing the blame if firms suffer.

Sir Keir was forced onto the defensive as he warned MPs: “There’s only once choice today – which is to vote for implementing this deal, or to vote for no deal.

“Those who vote no are voting for no deal.”

He added: “It’s not a mark of how pro-European you are to reject implementing this treaty.”

Yet he also pointed out flaws in the Brexit deal.

Sir Keir was forced onto the defensive as he warned MPs: “There’s only once choice today – which is to vote for implementing this deal, or to vote for no deal”

Boris Johnson has boasted the UK can set its own laws in future – but the EU will be able to retaliate in tariffs if we diverge too far from its standards on the environment, state aid or workers’ rights.

“The Prime Minister hasn’t escaped that dilemma – he’s negotiated a treaty that bakes it in,” Sir Keir said.

The Prime Minister also made a highly misleading claim about fish as he urged MPs to back the deal.

Mr Johnson told MPs: “In five and a half years time we will be able to fish every single fish in our waters if we so choose.”

But in reality, if the UK did this it could collapse the entire deal.

After 2026, there will be annual negotiations over how many fish go to UK and EU fishermen in UK waters.

The PM made a highly misleading claim about fish

But the deal says those negotiations “should normally” lead to each side getting a quota that’s “reasonably commensurate” with what they had before.

And if the UK acts unfairly, the EU can take “compensatory measures” or – in the worst case scenario – collapse the trade part of the deal entirely as a result.

Mr Johnson also wrongly claimed firms would not face a “thicket of trade barriers” – despite the fact the UK is leaving the EU’s single market and customs union.

That means exporters will need to fill out customs declarations on hundreds of billions of pounds per year of trade.

Brexit trade deal talks were held up for months over two main issues.

Fishing: The two sides were split over two issues – quotas and access. In 2012-16, 56% of the fish in UK waters was caught by EU boats and 44% by UK boats. Britain wanted both more quota to catch its own fish, and ultimate control over who accesses the waters. Both sides agreed a five-and-a-half-year transition period before the UK has full sovereignty over its own waters. This was more than the three years originally demanded by the UK. Meanwhile the UK share of fish caught in its own waters will rise to reclaim 25% of fish currently caught by EU trawlers by 2026. Originally the UK had demanded 80% of the EU’s quotas in UK waters.

Level playing field: This means how closely we follow EU rules in the future, to stop us undercutting businesses on the continent. The UK wanted to be free to set its own laws in areas like labour, environment, climate, and subsidies for businesses (“state aid”). But the EU originally demanded “equivalence”, with the UK “mirroring” EU rules in future. In the end, the EU won its demand for both sides to have a “level playing field” in which neither side will “grant unfair subsidies or distort competition”. But the deal stops short of the EU’s original demands for the UK to mirror EU laws. Instead the PM said each side will be able “as sovereign equals” to take action if the other side undercuts their industry – but this should only be done infrequently. The PM admitted the EU would be able to slap tariffs on UK exports and vice versa if the UK is seen to undercut EU rules. But he insisted it would have to be “proportionate” and “subject to arbitration”.

Live animals and animal products will need new checks, and chilled sausages and mince will be banned completely from export from the UK to EU.

Boris Johnson told MPs that the Bill represents “one of the biggest free trade agreements in the world”.

Opening the debate on the European Union (Future Relationship) Bill in the Commons, the Prime Minister said: “Having taken back control of our money, our borders, our laws and our waters by leaving the European Union on January 31, we now seize this moment to forge a fantastic new relationship with our European neighbours based on free trade and friendly co-operation.”

He added: “At the heart of this Bill is one of the biggest free trade agreements in the world.”

He said the government would invest £100m in a programme to modernise fishing fleets “restoring a great British industry to the eminence it deserves.”

But SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford: “This bad Brexit deal means businesses will be burdened with mountains more bureaucracy, and more costs.”

He said Brexiteers will think that’s okay because the tape is “red, white and blue”.


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