UK parliament approves Brexit trade deal with EU

LONDON: British lawmakers approved Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union, as both sides looked to begin a new chapter of relations.

Britain and the European Union signed the deal on Wednesday and the British parliament will finalise its implementation, ending over four years of negotiation and safeguarding nearly $1 trillion of annual trade.

Johnson, in a specially convened sitting of parliament, said he hoped to work “hand in glove” with the EU when its interests aligned, using Britain’s new-found sovereignty to reshape the British economy.

“Brexit is not an end but a beginning,” Johnson said. “The responsibility now rests with all of us to make the best use of the powers that we regain, the tools that we’ve taken back into our hands.”

Parliament’s lower house voted 521 to 73 in favour of the deal. Britain’s Queen Elizabeth gave final approval to the legislation which enabled the government to implement and ratify the UK’s trade deal with the European Union.

 The so-called Royal Assent was effectively a rubber-stamp for the law which passed through parliament. “House of Lords is notified of Royal Assent to the European Union (Future Relationship) Act,” the House of Lords said in a tweet after midnight.

The deal has been criticised on several fronts since it was agreed on December 24. The opposition Labour Party says it doesn’t protect trade in services, while fishermen rage that Johnson has sold out their interests, and Northern Ireland’s status remains subject to much uncertainty.

Nevertheless, Johnson has won the support of his party’s hardline Brexiteers – delivering a break with the EU far more radical than many imagined when Britain shocked the world in 2016 by voting to leave.

Earlier, against a backdrop of EU flags, top EU officials signed the treaties struck on Dec. 24 to preserve Britain’s tariff- and quota-free access to the bloc’s 450 million consumers.

“It is of the utmost importance for the European Union and the United Kingdom to look forward, in view of opening a new chapter in their relations,” the EU said in a statement.

Britain formally left the EU nearly a year ago and the new partnership agreement will regulate ties from Jan. 1 on everything from trade to transport, energy links and fishing.

After both sides have signed, the deal will be in place until the end of February, pending final approval by the European Parliament to make it permanent.