The two parties came to an agreement last Thursday on how their trade relationship will look like from January 1st 2021 after the UK leaves the single market. The next crucial step in the process is the backing of the member states on the European side, and backing of the MPs on the British side. This step is expected to be completed today, one day before the end of the transition period.
Today morning, Wednesday 30th December, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, the European Council president, are expected to sign the international treaty ratifying the deal. The European Parliament does not have enough time to ratify the deal, two days before the end of the transition period. However, the leaders of the 27 member states have already given the deal their full support.
The presidents of the European Council and European Commission will sign the document over in Brussels. Once the EU does its part, the document will be flown over the Channel in a RAF plane to be delivered to the British PM, Boris Johnson, who will then take the document into his five hour long debate with the MPs in the Commons that is scheduled to start at 9:30 AM. At the end of the debate, it is expected Mr Johnson will sign the document knowing the majority of MPs backed the deal.
Boris urging the MPs to back the deal
At his opening speech this morning, Boris Johnson is expected to mention how the free trade agreement with the EU has been reached in record time. He will urge all MPs, especially the members of his Conservatory party to back the deal so that the implementation of the new laws can also be completed rapidly and the deal can be put into law the day before the UK leaves the single market.
For the purposes of the long debate that will be held today, a simplified version of the document, containing only 80 pages, and not almost a 1000, has been printed. This is so the MPs have a good chance of scrutinising the deal in time.
The general opinion is that the deal has a good chance of being backed up on the British side as Mr Johnsons’s Conservatory party members take up the majority of the seats in the House of Commons. Those MPs are likely to back up the deal that, according to the British PM, allows the UK to take “control of our laws and our national destiny”.
Despite the UK leaving the EU, the British PM is expected to highlight that the UK still intends to be the EU’s “friendly neighbour – the best friend and ally the EU could have – working hand-in-glove whenever our values and interests coincide while fulfilling the sovereign wish of the British people to live under their own laws, made by their own elected Parliament”.
The European Research Group (ERG) examined the long text and concluded that it “preserves the UK’s sovereignty as a matter of law”.
Will there be a majority in favour of the deal?
The House of Commons includes other parties apart from the Tories. The next largest in number is the Labour party. The members of this party will have to back the deal, in order for it to win the majority of the vote, considering all other opposition parties, including the SNP, the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and all Northern Ireland parties that take seats at Westminster, have indicated they will be voting against the deal.
However, many believe that the Labour party will vote in favour of the new trade deal. The party’s leader, Sir Keir Starmer said he will urge his MPs to do so as the alternative of a no-deal Brexit would have been far more damaging to the UK.
He did however say that in his opinion the deal does not do enough to protect jobs, the environment and workers’ rights.
Having come this far, there is a strong chance that the deal will get enough votes in the Commons today for it to be implemented before the transition period ends. Despite it being a ‘free trade agreement’ there will be a significant increase in customs regulations and formalities as the UK will no longer be a part of the customs territory or the internal market. If your business operates across the Channel, be sure you are prepared for the changes that will come into place on January 1st. Get in touch with our experts if you have any questions!