Wednesday 30 December 2020
The Prime Minister will close the curtain on Brexit today by announcing a “new chapter in our national story” before MPs debate and vote on the trade agreement struck last week with the European Union in a bill before Parliament.
Boris Johnson will say: “The central purpose of this Bill is to accomplish something which the British people always knew in their hearts could be done, but which we were told was impossible – namely that we could trade and cooperate with our European neighbours on the closest terms of friendship and goodwill, whilst retaining sovereign control of our laws and our national destiny.”
The deal is poised to win a thumping majority after leading Tory Eurosceptics, Bill Cash and Mark Francois said they would back it. The influential European Research Group of Brexiteers will likely follow suit. Meanwhile, Labour leader, Keir Starmer has urged his MPs to do the same, as voting against the deal would amount to endorsing a No Deal Brexit – only favoured by a minority of hardline Tory MPs. Nevertheless, according to the Telegraph, around 20 Labour MPs will defy Starmer’s orders, joining the SNP and the DUP in abstaining or voting against.
Although pro-independence, The Ulster Unionists still feel wronged by the Withdrawal Agreement, which keeps Northern Ireland in the EU’s regulatory orbit while the rest of the United Kingdom separates at the end of this month.
The Scottish Nationalists, who increasingly see themselves as the real opposition in Westminster, are doubling down against what they describe as an “extreme Tory Brexit”.
Johnson will tell MPs this morning that Britain will remain “the best friend and ally the EU could have”.
“Those of us who campaigned for Britain to leave the EU never sought a rupture with our closest neighbours. We would never wish to rupture ourselves from fellow democracies beneath whose soil lie British war graves in tranquil cemeteries, often tended by local schoolchildren, testament to our shared struggle for freedom and everything we cherish in common.
“What we sought was not a rupture but a resolution – a resolution of the old and vexed question of Britain’s political relations with Europe, which bedevilled our post-war history.”
The EU (Future Relationship) Bill will be debated throughout the morning. MPs will vote mid-afternoon, around the time EU presidents, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel sign the agreement, which will then be flown in an RAF jet to London for the Prime Minister to sign. At 3.30 PM, the House of Lords will begin to have its say before the House of Commons decides on any amendments late this evening, and wraps up this epic chapter in time for the New Year, and full independence.