Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit trade deal was approved by the British parliament less than 24 hours before the final split of the European Union.
The House of Lords gave the green light to the deal late Wednesday, just a day before the UK leaves the EU internal market when the transition period expires at 23:00 on Thursday.
Johnson thanked MPs for supporting the “historic” legislation, which turns the agreement he signed with the EU into British law.
“The fate of this great country now lies firmly in our hands,” Johnson said in an email after the agreement was approved. “We take on this duty with a purposeful feeling and with the interests of the British public at the heart of everything we do.”
The rush to get the agreement through parliament within one day ends a four-year saga that gripped British politics and divided the country.
Since the referendum vote in June 2016, the Brexit unrest has forced two prime ministers to do so resigned, violated markets and saw the UK’s relationship with its largest trading partnership radically redefined.
For Johnson, it is a personal achievement as well as a political milestone. He was the face of the pro-Brexit campaign in 2016 and most of the time managed to lose politically due to the failure to deliver an orderly divorce.
There are still risks for Johnson – and for Britain – in the coming months and years, with new rules for trade and control of goods crossing the border, making disruption potentially inevitable. The question of how close or far the UK should be to the EU market will become a permanent feature of the British political debate.
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In the short term, however, Johnson gives a domestic victory at a difficult time. His government is struggling with a reviving coronavirus that has already plagued the deepest recession for more than 300 years and now threatens to overwhelm the health service.
Under the agreement, there will be zero-tariff, zero-quota trade in goods between Britain and the EU, but very limited terms for service businesses, which make up 80% of the UK economy.
The deal, signed on Christmas Eve, was signed on Wednesday by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel before being flown to London to be inked by Johnson.
As the clock strikes after the UK’s exit from the internal market and customs union, the prime minister will be in his Downing Street residence with his family, according to a government spokesman.
The moment will be a new beginning in the history of our country and a new relationship with the EU as their biggest ally, ‘Johnson said.