British lawmakers approved Wednesday Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union. Both sides were looking to begin a new chapter of relations with a new agreement.
On Wednesday, the European Union and Britain signed the deal, and the British Parliament will finalize its implementation. This ended over four years of negotiation, safeguarding nearly $1 trillion of annual trade.
Both sides said it was a chance to start anew the relationship forged as Europe rebuilt after World War Two. However, it has often seen Britain as a reluctant participant in ever-tighter political and economic integration.
Johnson said he hoped to work “hand in glove” with the EU when its interests aligned. That is by using Britain’s new-found sovereignty to reshape the British economy.
Brexit is not an end but a beginning, the Prime Minister said. Now, the responsibility rests with all of them to make the best use of the powers that they regain. The tools that they have taken back into their hands, Johnson said.
In favor of the deal, the parliament’s lower house voted 521 to 73. The parliament’s upper house now debates the bill, which should become law around midnight.
Best Friend and Ally
Since it was agreed on Dec. 24, the deal has been criticized on several fronts. According to the opposition Labour Party, it is too thin and does not protect trade in services. Moreover, fishers rage that the Prime Minister has sold out their interests, and Northern Ireland’s status remains subject to much uncertainty.
Johnson, nevertheless, has won the support of his party’s hardline Brexiteers. It had delivered a break with the EU far more radical when Britain shocked the world in 2016. That was by voting to leave.
Bill Cash, who has been a long-time eurosceptic lawmaker, said Johnson had saved Britain’s democracy. That was from four decades of “subjugation” to Brussels. He said, like Alexander the Great, Boris has cut the Gordian knot.
The Prime Minister said he hoped to end the “old, tired, vexed question of Britain’s political relations with Europe.” He instead hoped to become “the best friend and ally the EU could have.”