30 December 2020 | UK NEWS
Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal eased through Parliament earlier today, with MPs giving the Prime Minister their overwhelming approval.
The EU (Future Relationship) Bill was passed in the Commons by a majority of 448. 521 MPs voted for the deal, with only 73 MPs voting against.
The deal was passed with the support of the Labour Party, despite reservations from Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer, who called the deal “thin”.
The UK is set to leave the EU’s transition period on at 11pm on New Year’s Eve – tomorrow night. The deal had been pushed through Parliament in order that it may be confirmed before this Thursday’s deadline.
Only two Conservative MPs did not vote for the Bill. Owen Paterson and John Redwood abstainedOwen Paterson and John Redwood, both former Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet Ministers, abstained from the vote. Mr Paterson is said to have held concerns about the position of Northern Ireland in the Prime Minister’s newly-negotiated settlement.
From the Labour Party, only one MP voted against the deal, but an additional 36 Labour MPs abstained. This included four Shadow Ministers: Rachel Reeves, Helen Hayes, Tonia Antoniazzi and Florence Eshalomi, who all resigned from their posts following their abstention. The SNP, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party all voted against the deal.
The SNP’s Leader in the Commons, Ian Blackford, had previously announced over the weekend that the party’s MPs would vote against the deal, branding it “a very bad deal for Scotland”.
Many of the Labour MPs who voted against the deal were among the inner circle of the former Labour Party leadership, or otherwise of a similar political persuasion. These included Jeremy Corbyn himself, John McDonnell, Nadia Whittome, Claudia Webbe, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Richard Burgon, Diane Abbott, Dawn Butler, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Zarah Sultana and Apsana Begum.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in the Commons today that: “This Bill, it embodies our vision – shared with our European neighbours – of a new relationship between Britain and the EU as sovereign equals, joined by friendship, commerce, history, interests and values, while respecting one another’s freedom of action and recognising that we have nothing to fear if we sometimes choose to do things differently and we have much to gain from the healthy stimulus of competition. And this Bill demonstrates therefore how Britain can be at once European and sovereign.”
The Prime Minister also praised his European counterparts, saying: “Let me also pay tribute to President Ursula von der Leyen, Michel Barnier and all our European friends for their pragmatism and foresight and for their understanding that it is profoundly in the interests of the EU to live alongside a prosperous, contented and sovereign United Kingdom.”
Former Prime Minister Theresa May had spent time negotiating a Withdrawal Agreement with the EU (although not a future relationship as was being voted on today), but she did not gain Parliamentary approval for it and consequently resigned as Prime Minister. Today in the Commons, she attacked Labour, saying they should have supported her arrangement, which she implied would have been more preferable for them. She did, however, vote for Boris Johnson’s deal this afternoon.
Sir Keir Starmer said that: “There’s only one choice today, which is to vote for implementing this deal or to vote for no deal. Those that vote no, are voting for no deal.
“This is the nub of it: those voting no today want yes. They want others to save them from their own vote. Voting no, wanting yes, that’s the truth of the situation and that’s why my party has taken a different path.”