Boris Johnson urges Tory MPs to back Brexit deal as full text published
theguardian– The EU and the UK government have published the full text of the Brexit trade deal less than a week before it is due to be implemented, as Boris Johnson urged his backbenchers to support the agreement when it reaches parliament next week.
The deal, which comes to more than 1,250 pages, will be voted on in the House of Commons on Wednesday, a day before the Brexit transition period ends.
The prime minister urged Conservative Eurosceptics to back the deal, saying it made good “on every one of our manifesto commitments”, and he implored them to remember “what the public want us to do”.
With Labour’s backing, the deal is likely to be passed, but Johnson is keen to win over the European Research Group, a parliamentary pressure group of hardline Conservative MPs who want a clean break from Europe. The group has said it will reconvene what it describes as its “star chamber”, a panel of lawyers who scrutinised Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement in 2019, to examine the trade deal before deciding whether to back it.
The chairman of the “star chamber” said its examination of the deal was under way. Sir Bill Cash said he was in “constant communication” with the rest of the group, having received the full text of the treaty by courier from No 10 on Boxing Day.
In a WhatsApp message sent to Tory MPs, Johnson said he was confident the deal would withstand “ruthless” legal scrutiny from the “star chamber legal eagles” .
On Saturday the Conservative former cabinet minister Theresa Villiers told BBC Breakfast: “I very much hope this treaty stands up to scrutiny and I hope to be able to support it. But I was elected on a manifesto which promised to get Brexit done, so I need to read [the document] before I can work out whether this actually enables us to do that or whether it traps us in the regulatory orbit of the European Union.”
The EU’s 27 member states have indicated they will formally back the deal within days. EU ambassadors were briefed on its contents by Michel Barnier, who led Brussels’ negotiating team in the talks with the UK.
After a highly unusual meeting on Christmas Day – with at least one diplomat wearing a Santa hat and another a festive jumper – they agreed to write to the European parliament to say they intended to take a decision on the provisional application of the deal.
Downing Street’s chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost, hailed the “beginning a moment of national renewal” and said the deal ensures the UK “sets its own laws again”.
“The way we’ve achieved that is there’s no more role for the European court of justice, there’s no direct effects of EU law, there’s no alignment of any kind, and we’re out of the single market and out of the customs union just as the manifesto said we would be,” he said.
“This should be the beginning of a moment of national renewal for us. All choices are in our hands as a country and it’s now up to us to decide how we use them and how we go forward in the future.”
According to the BBC, the deal goes beyond the bloc’s so-called “Canada-style” trade accord. The document, which includes about 800 pages of annexes and footnotes, reportedly includes a late compromise on electric cars.
The EU had sought to offer tariff-free access only to those British vehicles that are made mostly with European parts. This measure will now be phased in over six years but is less generous than the UK requested.
There is also a commitment not to lower standards on the environment, workers’ rights and climate change, with mechanisms to enforce this.
There is a mutual right to “rebalance” the agreement if there are “significant divergences” in future that are capable of “impacting trade”.
The dispensations go beyond standard free-trade agreements such as those between the EU and Canada or Japan, reflecting the UK’s history in the single market, which was established in 1993.
The Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove, suggested the agreement would provide a fresh start for the UK and the EU, enabling them to build a “special relationship … between sovereign equals”.
Writing in the Times, Gove said he hoped it would spell an end to the “rancorous and, at times, ugly politics” seen since the EU referendum.
The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, is facing the prospect of a revolt within his party after instructing MPs to vote in favour of the deal. Sources confirmed to the Guardian that several frontbenchers were likely to resign over the vote.
Many Labour MPs had urged Starmer to recommend abstaining in the vote, warning that he would be unable to criticise the government for the economic consequences of the deal if Labour supported it. But Starmer said “leadership is about taking the tough decisions in the national interest” and being a “serious, responsible opposition.” He said: “At a moment of such national significance, it is not credible for Labour to be on the sidelines.”
The Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Ed Davey, suggested on Saturday morning that his party was likely to vote against the deal. “If the details turn out to be what we’re hearing, we cannot support it,” he said. “This will be so bad for British business, so bad for families to mean they’re less safe. How can a responsible party support such a bad deal?”
Davey also expressed concerns that the deal would make it more difficult for law enforcement bodies to share information. “British families will be less safe as a result of this deal. The criminals will be cheering as a result of this deal. That’s not acceptable.”