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Brexit: PM hails ‘astonishing speed’ that EU trade deal was negotiated as MPs debate agreement

football merchandise Brexit: PM hails 'astonishing speed' that EU trade deal was negotiated as MPs debate agreement Football Merchandise
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skynews brexit uk eu flags 5222293 Brexit: PM hails 'astonishing speed' that EU trade deal was negotiated as MPs debate agreement Football Merchandise

Boris Johnson has hailed the “astonishing speed” with which the UK-EU trade deal was agreed and says the agreement “demonstrates how Britain can be at once European and sovereign”.

It comes as MPs debate the deal ahead of a vote which could see the agreement ratified by parliament by the end of the day.

If approved, the trade deal, which was agreed between the UK and EU on Christmas Eve, will come into force on 1 January following the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December.

The prime minister told the Commons: “It took nearly eight years for the Uruguay round of world trade talks to produce a deal, and five years for the EU to reach a trade agreement with Canada, and six for Japan.

“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.

“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.

“Now with this Bill, we’re going to become a friendly neighbour, the best friend and ally the EU could have.”

MPs were recalled to the House of Commons from their Christmas break to scrutinise the 1,246-page agreement in a single day.

Mr Johnson is expected to see the deal pass through with few problems after Labour said they would vote in favour of the agreement.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the agreement was flawed, but the alternative of ending the transition period without an agreement would be even worse.

He told MPs: “This is a thin deal. It has got many flaws but a thin deal is better than no deal.

“Not implementing this deal would mean immediate tariffs and quotas with the EU which will push up prices and drive businesses to the wall.

“It will leave huge gaps in security, a free-for-all on workers and protections and less stability for the Northern Ireland protocol.”

A group of influential Conservative Brexiteers – the European Research Group – has declared its support for the deal and said it “preserves the UK’s sovereignty as a matter of law”.

However, fishing industry leaders have said they feel “betrayed” by the deal, claiming many businesses would be worse off.

If the EU (Future Relationship) Bill is passed, its provisions will come into force at 11pm on 31 December when the current Brexit transition period expires.

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

Mr Michel said the deal was “fair and balanced” and “fully protects the fundamental interests of the European Union”.

Following the brief ceremony in Brussels, the documents were being flown to London by the RAF for Mr Johnson to sign.

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