Brexit trade deal passes in the Commons despite London Labour abstentions

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the debate in the House of Commons on the EU (Future Relationshi

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the debate in the House of Commons on the EU (Future Relationship) Bill. - Credit: PA

Boris Johnson’s EU trade deal has cleared the House of Commons, as the government seeks to rush approval through Parliament in a single day.

After little over four hours’ debate, MPs voted by 521 to 73 to give the European Union (Future Relationship) Bill a third reading.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told Labour MPs to back the bill but 36 recorded no vote, including Hackney's Diane Abbott and Meg Hillier, and Brent's Dawn Butler and Barry Gardiner.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, now sitting as an independent MP for Islington North, did not record a vote, and said in a statement: "I cannot vote for Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal today, which this Government will use to drive down rights and protections, and step up the sell-off of our vital public services."

Islington councillor Claudia Webbe, who is MP for Leicester East and currently suspended by Labour pending a trial on a harassment charge, also did not record a vote.

One MP, Streatham's Bell Ribeiro-Addy, voted against the deal.

North London MPs voting for the deal included Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn), Emily Thornberry (Islington South and Finsbury) and Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green).

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Boris Johnson has signed the trade deal, while the bill goes to the House of Lords before going to the Queen for royal assent. That would pave the way for the deal to take effect at 11pm on Thursday when the current Brexit transition period ends.

Opening the debate in the Commons, the prime minister said the deal would enable the UK to trade and co-operate with the EU on the “closest possible terms” while taking “sovereign control of our laws and our national destiny”.

He said he hoped it would end the “old, desiccated, tired, super-masticated arguments” which have dogged the country for years and enable it to move forwards to a “new and great future”.

“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,” he said.

“We are going to open a new chapter in our national story, striking free trade deals around the world and reasserting global Britain as a liberal, outward-looking force for good.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer during the debate in the House of Commons on the EU (Future Relations

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer during the debate in the House of Commons on the EU (Future Relationship) Bill. - Credit: PA

Sir Keir Starmer said that while the agreement is “thin” with “many flaws”, the alternative is to leave the EU single market and customs union with no agreement, pushing up prices and driving businesses to the wall.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, condemned the deal as “an act of economic vandalism” and attacked Labour for failing to oppose it.

“I am sad to say that the official opposition has been missing in action. I can understand that this might be politically pragmatic for Labour but it definitely isn’t politically principled,” he said.

Two junior shadow ministers – Helen Hayes and Tonia Antoniazzi – announced they were resigning their posts on the Labour front bench as they could not support the agreement.

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