House of Commons Passes Brexit Trade Deal, and Queen Signs It
Dec. 31, 2020 (EIRNS) —The British House of Commons approved the Brexit trade deal with the European Union, and it has been signed by the Queen. The vote was 521-73. The affirmative votes included most MPs from the leading opposition Labour Party, whose party leader Keir Starmer. Starmer, who had earlier been dubbed as “remainer-in-chief,” instructed the party to vote up the agreement in order to avoid chaos in trade with Brussels if no deal were reached before the Dec. 31 deadline. The House of Lords also backed the deal. The agreement passed just in time, as the transition period ended at 11 p.m. in London (midnight in Brussels), on Dec. 31, thus sidestepping a no-deal Brexit. As usual these days, the Commons deliberated over the 1,200-page document for only five hours, which did manage to upset a few MPs.
On Dec. 29, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel signed the agreement during a brief ceremony in Brussels. It has yet to be passed by the European Parliament, which could take several weeks. Nonetheless, the agreement takes effect on Jan. 1, 2021.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the House of Commons that the deal heralded “a new relationship between Britain and the EU as sovereign equals.”
The agreement will ensure that Britain and the 27-nation EU can continue to trade in goods without tariffs or quotas. Former Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May, who resigned in 2019 after three years of Brexit acrimony in Parliament, said she would vote for Johnson’s agreement. But she said it was worse than the one she had negotiated with Brussels, which MPs repeatedly rejected. She pointed out that the deal protected trade in goods but did not cover services, which account for 80% of Britain’s economy. “We have a deal in trade, which benefits the EU, but not a deal in services, which would have benefitted the U.K.,” May said.
The U.K. must now sign independent trade agreements with all countries.