MPs vote to overwhelmingly back Boris Johnson's Brexit trade deal
30th December 2020

Brexit is finally DONE: After four years of wrangling MPs vote 521 to 73 and seal Britain’s historic divorce from the EU – despite intervention from former PM Theresa May and Labour backlash

  • Boris Johnson has hailed new chapter in Britain’s history as deal is rushed through the Houses of Parliament
  • MPs and Peers have been recalled from Christmas break for the one-day sitting before transition period ends
  • Eurosceptics and Labour leader Keir Starmer have announced they will be backing deal meaning it will pass  
  • The Queen will be on standby, and is expected to give royal assent for the historic agreement before midnight

MPs voted this afternoon to overwhelmingly support Boris Johnson’s Brexit trade deal with the EU as the UK prepares for an orderly split from Brussels at 11pm tomorrow night. 

The Prime Minister is crashing the accord through Parliament in a single day and the agreement cleared its final major hurdle as MPs voted by 521 to 73, a majority of 448, to approve it. 

The deal still has to be formally approved by the House of Lords and that will happen this evening before the Queen is asked to rubberstamp it late tonight. 

This afternoon’s vote means Mr Johnson is now standing on the threshold of history as he tries to close the book on four years of bitter political wrangling. 

Meanwhile, the official copy of the hard-fought 1,200 page trade deal has arrived in London on an RAF jet after being signed by a smiling EU commission chief Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels this morning.

The PM is set to do the honours in Downing Street this afternoon as he finally brings the curtain down on the Brexit saga which has dominated UK politics since the EU referendum in 2016.  

Earlier, a clearly jubilant PM delivered an upbeat message to the Commons about the country’s opportunities now the UK has ‘taken back control’.

Opening the Commons debate on his deal, Mr Johnson urged an end to the ‘rancour and recrimination’ that have soured political life in recent years.

He said decades of tensions with the EU had been ‘resolved’ so Britain can be its closest friend, a free-trading power, and a ‘liberal, outward-looking force for good’. He suggested far from trade being hit by leaving the single market and customs union it should mean ‘even more’ business being done.

‘Having taken back control of our money, our borders, our laws and our waters by leaving the European Union on January 31, we now seize this moment to forge a fantastic new relationship with our European neighbours based on free trade and friendly co-operation,’ Mr Johnson said.

‘At the heart of this Bill is one of the biggest free trade agreements in the world.’  

The passage of the deal through the Commons was seen as a formality thanks to the PM’s 80-seat majority and the fact Sir Keir Starmer told Labour MPs they had to vote for it. 

However, the Labour leader faced a rebellion by a number of his own MPs as they defied the party whip and voted against the accord. 

In a tough message to would-be mutineers, Sir Keir said this morning: ‘Those that vote ”no” are voting for No Deal.’ 

But ex-PM Theresa May delivered a stinging attack saying her agreement with the EU – repeatedly rejected by the House in 2019 before she was evicted from No10 – had been ‘better’, and berating Sir Keir for failing to support it.    

The Brexit trade agreement touched down at London City airport on an RAF flight this afternoon after being signed by EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen 

Boris Johnson hailed a ‘new chapter’ for the UK after Brexit today as his trade deal is crashed through Parliament

A smiling EU commission chief Ursula von der Leyen (left) and EU council president Charles Michel signed the pact in Brussels this morning


Ms von der Leyen and Mr Michel signed the trade deal on a provisional basis, with the European Parliament due to give approval next year

A poll overnight suggests that Labour voters want the party to help pass the agreement with the EU

Sir Keir Starmer is facing a furious revolt by dozens of Labour MPs over his plea to give ‘closure’ on Brexit by backing the PM’s trade deal with the EU.

Sir Keir is ordering his benches to support the historic trade pact in crunch votes this afternoon, saying the argument is ‘over’ and the issue must not dominate the next general election.

But more than 20 Labour MPs, including former shadow cabinet members Diane Abbott and John McDonnell, are expected to defy their leader to oppose the package, while Scottish Labour is joining Nicola Sturgeon in condemning the plan.

The rebellion underlines the festering divide within Labour over how to handle Brexit, and contrasts with the apparent unity in Boris Johnson’s ranks over the deal.  

A poll overnight suggests that Labour voters want the party to help pass the agreement with the EU. 

The rallying cry from Mr Johnson came as legislation implementing the historic deal is being rushed through the Commons and Lords in just one day, ahead of the end of the transition period at 11pm tomorrow. 

The agreement’s passage is assured with Tory Eurosceptics – who lavished praise on Mr Johnson, saying Churchill and Thatcher would be ‘proud’ – fully on board.

Urging MPs to back the accord struck on Christmas Eve, Mr Johnson claimed it resolves ‘the old and vexed question of Britain’s political relations with Europe, which bedevilled our post-war history’. 

The PM said: ‘We have done this in less than a year, in the teeth of a pandemic, and we have pressed ahead with this task, resisting all calls for delay, precisely because creating certainty about our future provides the best chance of beating Covid and bouncing back even more strongly next year.’

Mr Johnson went on: ‘We will now open a new chapter in our national story, striking free trade deals around the world, adding to the agreements with 63 countries we have already achieved, and reasserting Global Britain as a liberal, outward-looking force for good.

‘Those of us who campaigned for Britain to leave the EU never sought a rupture with our closest neighbours.

‘We would never wish to rupture ourselves from fellow democracies beneath whose soil lie British war graves in tranquil cemeteries, often tended by local schoolchildren, testament to our shared struggle for freedom and everything we cherish in common.

‘What we sought was not a rupture but a resolution, a resolution of the old and vexed question of Britain’s political relations with Europe, which bedevilled our post-War history.’ 

Despite warnings that there will be more friction in trade due to breaking free from EU rules, Mr Johnson said the deal ‘if anything should allow companies to do even more business with our European friends, safeguarding millions of jobs and livelihoods in UK and across the continent’.

‘In less than 48 hours, we will leave the EU single market and the customs union, as we promised,’ he said.

Mr Johnson said for the first time since 1973 the UK would be an independent coastal nation, stressing that in five and a half years’ time after another transition Britain will have full control of its waters. ‘Of course we would have liked to have done this more quickly,’ he admitted. 

Sir Keir urged his benches to support the historic trade pact, saying the argument is ‘over’ and the issue must not dominate the next general election.

‘Those that vote no are voting for no deal,’ he said. ‘Anyone choosing that option today knows there is no time to renegotiate, there is no better deal coming in the next 24 hours, no extensions, no humble addresses, no SO24s, so choosing that option leads to one place: No deal.

‘Or we can take the only other option that is available and implement the treaty that has been negotiated.’ 

Theresa May claims her deal was ‘better’ 

Theresa May delivered a stinging attack saying her deal with the EU was ‘better’ than Boris Johnson’s.

The ex-PM said berated Sir Keir Starmer for failing to support her package when she tried to pass it last year. 

Mrs May – who wore a mask for much of the debate – said she would be supporting the deal citing ‘very important’ security arrangements.

But she said she had listened to Sir Keir’s comments with ‘incredulity’.

‘He said he wanted a better deal. He had the opportunity in early 2019 when there was the opportunity of a better deal on the table and he voted against it, so I will take no lectures from the leader of the Opposition on this deal,’ she said.

‘Central to this deal the PM has said is the tariff free and quota free trade arrangements subject of course to rules of origin requirements. It would have been unforgiveable for the EU not to have allowed tariff free and quota free access given that they signed up to that in the political declaration signed with my Government in November 2018.

‘One of the reasons for supporting this deal is the security arrangements that have been put in place which are very important.’

However, more than 20 Labour MPs, including former shadow cabinet members Diane Abbott and John McDonnell, are expected to defy their leader to oppose the package, while Scottish Labour is joining Nicola Sturgeon in condemning the plan.

The rebellion underlines the festering divide within Labour over how to handle Brexit, and contrasts with the relative unity in Boris Johnson’s ranks over the deal. 

Mrs May – who wore a mask for much of the debate – said she would be supporting the deal citing ‘very important’ security arrangements.

But she said she had listened to Sir Keir’s comments with ‘incredulity’.

‘He said he wanted a better deal. He had the opportunity in early 2019 when there was the opportunity of a better deal on the table and he voted against it, so I will take no lectures from the leader of the Opposition on this deal,’ she said.

‘Central to this deal the PM has said is the tariff free and quota free trade arrangements subject of course to rules of origin requirements. It would have been unforgiveable for the EU not to have allowed tariff free and quota free access given that they signed up to that in the political declaration signed with my Government in November 2018.

‘One of the reasons for supporting this deal is the security arrangements that have been put in place which are very important.’ 

Ms von der Leyen signed the deal with EU council president Charles Michel in Brussels this morning. It will now be brought to London by an RAF flight, where Mr Johnson is due to sign it later. 

The EU commission president tweeted: ‘Today, @eucopresident and I signed the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. 

‘Prime Minister @BorisJohnson will sign it later today in London. It has been a long road. 

‘It’s time now to put Brexit behind us. Our future is made in Europe.’

MPs and Peers have been recalled from their Christmas break for today’s one-day sitting to rubber-stamp the trade deal.

The Commons is expected to spend five hours scrutinising the 80-page EU (Future Relationship) Bill starting shortly, before the Upper House sits late into the evening.

The Queen will be on standby at Windsor Castle, where she is expected to give royal assent shortly before midnight. She may have to stay up until the early hours if the debate in the Lords drags on.

At the same time as the votes are held in Parliament, the deal will be signed by Brussels chiefs before being flown by an RAF plane to London for Mr Johnson to add his name to what is an international treaty. The European Parliament has begun its scrutiny of the agreement but will not get a chance to ratify it until after it comes into effect at 11pm tomorrow.

It has however been given the unanimous backing of ambassadors from the 27 EU nations – and the member states yesterday gave their written approval.

Legislation implementing the historic deal is being rushed through the Commons and Lords in just one day, ahead of the end of the transition period at 11pm tomorrow

Keir Starmer is ordering his MPs to support the plan as it is better than No Deal – even though dozens of his own side are expected to rebel

ERG chairman Mark Francois brandished the Brexit trade deal in the Commons and said that after a ‘truly epic struggle’, the UK can now write a new chapter as a ‘free people’

The Queen (pictured) will be on standby at Windsor Castle, where she is expected to give royal assent shortly before midnight. She may have to stay up until the early hours if the debate in the Lords drags on

The European Research Group of hardline Brexiteer Tory MPs last night endorsed the treaty.

A self-styled ‘star chamber’ of lawyers – led by Bill Cash – was assembled to examine the 1,246-page text of the agreement.

They concluded that it preserved ‘the UK’s sovereignty as a matter of law and fully respects the norms of international sovereign-to-sovereign treaties’.

The ERG said: ‘The ‘level playing field’ clauses go further than in comparable trade agreements, but their impact on the practical exercise of sovereignty is likely to be limited if addressed by a robust government.

‘In any event they do not prevent the UK from changing its laws as it sees fit at a risk of tariff countermeasures, and if those were unacceptable the agreement could be terminated on 12 months’ notice.’ The ERG’s legal advisory committee included Sir Bill, Martin Howe QC, Barnabas Reynolds, Christopher Howarth, Emily Law and Tory MP David Jones.

Their backing will be welcomed by the Prime Minister but the Bill was likely to pass because Labour leader Keir Starmer has urged his MPs to vote in favour.

The ERG said: ‘The ‘level playing field’ clauses go further than in comparable trade agreements, but their impact on the practical exercise of sovereignty is likely to be limited if addressed by a robust government.’ Pictured: ERG chairman Mark Francois studying the deal

The SNP, Plaid Cymru, the DUP, the SDLP, Alliance and the Liberal Democrats have all indicated that they are opposed.

Labour peers are expected to pass a ‘motion of regret’, putting on record their dissent. Some 84 MPs are due to speak in the Commons debate, including former prime minister Theresa May.

Dozens of Labour MPs are set to defy Sir Keir’s orders. Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, Clive Lewis and Ben Bradshaw have accused him of ‘falling into the trap of rallying around this rotten deal’.

Sir Keir dismissed the agreement as ‘thin’, saying it would not underpin workers’ rights or adequately protect sectors such as manufacturing and the creative industries.

But he insisted that a No Deal exit from the transition period was now the only other realistic possibility.

‘A better deal could have been negotiated. But I accept that option has now gone,’ he said.

In his Commons speech, Mr Johnson (pictured) pledged the UK will be a ‘friendly neighbour’ to the EU, with whom it will work ‘hand in glove’ when its values and interests coincide

Shadow Cabinet members – including the Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Bridget Phillipson, and the shadow international trade secretary Emily Thornberry – are known to have expressed concerns about the idea of supporting the deal. But they are expected to abide by collective responsibility.

The SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon said: ‘While recognising the UK would leave the EU, we proposed staying in the single market and customs union. The UK Government dismissed these ideas. It disregarded Scotland’s views, values and interests. It has agreed a deal which is disastrous for Scotland.’

Shares in London rose to their highest levels since the early days of the coronavirus crisis yesterday. On the first day of trading since the Christmas break, the FTSE 100 index closed up 1.55 per cent, or 100.54 points, at 6602.65. That was its highest level since March.

In total, £34billion was added to value of UK shares amid hopes the trade agreement and the roll-out of Covid vaccines will jolt the economy back into life in 2021.

Fund manager George Godber, of Polar Capital, said: ‘We should see some relief coming through as a result of the Brexit announcement. Whatever people think of the deal it is infinitely better than No Deal.’

  • Swiss and Norwegian politicians have said Britain’s deal is better than their arrangements with the EU. Marit Arnstad of Norway’s Centre Party said the agreement delivered more freedom and more independence than her country had.

In Switzerland, Hans-Peter Portmann of the country’s centre-Right Radical-Liberal Party said his government must ‘include the Brexit deal in the next talks with the EU in January and not go below the level that Britain has now’. 

DOWN TO THE WIRE: TIMELINE OF THE BREXIT SAGA 

January 23, 2013 – Under intense pressure from many of his own MPs and with the rise of Ukip, prime minister David Cameron promises an in-out referendum on EU membership if the Conservatives win the 2015 general election.

May 7, 2015 – The Tories unexpectedly make sweeping gains over Ed Miliband’s Labour Party and secure a majority in the Commons. Mr Cameron vows to deliver his manifesto pledge of an EU referendum.

June 23, 2016 – The UK votes to leave the EU in a shock result that sees 52% of the public support Brexit and Mr Cameron quickly resigns as prime minister.

July 13, 2016 – Theresa May takes over as prime minister. Despite having backed Remain, she promises to ‘rise to the challenge’ of negotiating the UK’s exit.

November 10, 2016 – The High Court rules against the Government and says Parliament must hold a vote to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, the mechanism that begins the exit from the EU. Mrs May says the ruling will not stop her from invoking the legislation by April 2017.

March 29, 2017 – Mrs May triggers Article 50. European Council president Donald Tusk says it is not a happy occasion, telling a Brussels press conference his message to the UK is: ‘We already miss you. Thank you and goodbye.’

April 18, 2017 – Mrs May announces a snap general election to be held on June 8.

June 8, 2017 – There is humiliation for Mrs May as she loses her Commons majority after her election gamble backfires. She becomes head of a minority Conservative administration propped up by the Democratic Unionist Party.

September 22, 2017 – In a crucial Brexit speech in Florence, Mrs May sends a message to EU leaders by saying: ‘We want to be your strongest friend and partner as the EU and UK thrive side by side.’ She says she is proposing an ‘implementation period’ of ‘around two years’ after Brexit when existing market access arrangements will apply.

March 19, 2018 – The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, says he and Brexit secretary David Davis have taken a ‘decisive step’ towards agreeing a joint legal text on the UK’s EU withdrawal but warns there are still outstanding issues relating to the Irish border.

July 6, 2018 – A crunch Cabinet meeting at Chequers agrees Mrs May’s new Brexit plans, including the creation of a new UK-EU free trade area for goods. But not all who attend are happy with the compromises.

July 8 and July 9, 2018 – Mr Davis resigns from the Government in protest while the following day Boris Johnson quits as foreign secretary, claiming the plans mean ‘we are truly headed for the status of colony’ of the EU.

November 14, 2018 – In a statement outside 10 Downing Street after a five-hour Cabinet meeting, Mrs May says that Cabinet has agreed the draft Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

November 15, 2018 – Dominic Raab resigns as Brexit secretary, saying he ‘cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU’. Other resignations follow.

November 25, 2018 – The 27 EU leaders endorse the Brexit deal.

December 12, 2018 – Mrs May survives an attempt to oust her with a vote of no confidence as Tory MPs vote by 200 to 117 in the secret ballot in Westminster.

January 15, 2019 – MPs reject Mrs May’s Brexit plans by an emphatic 432 to 202 in an historic vote which throws the future of her administration and the nature of the UK’s EU withdrawal into doubt.

March 20, 2019 – Mrs May tells the House of Commons that she has written to Mr Tusk to request an extension to Article 50 Brexit negotiations to June 30.

March 29, 2019 – MPs reject Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement for a third time – by 286 votes to 344 – on the day the UK was due to leave the EU.

April 10, 2019 – The EU agrees a ‘flexible extension’ to Brexit until October 31. Mrs May says the ‘choices we now face are stark and the timetable is clear’.

May 23, 2019 – Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party comes out on top in the European elections, while the pro-EU Liberal Democrats also make gains.

May 24, 2019 – Mrs May announces she is standing down as Tory Party leader on June 7. She says: ‘It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit.’

July 23, 2019 – Mr Johnson is elected as leader of the Conservative Party and becomes the UK’s new Prime Minister after defeating Jeremy Hunt.

August 20, 2019 – The new Prime Minister is rebuffed by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker after demanding major changes to Irish border arrangements in a new Brexit deal.

August 28, 2019 – The Queen is dragged into the Brexit row as Mr Johnson requests the prorogation of Parliament from early September to mid-October.

September 4, 2019 – MPs vote to approve legislation aimed at preventing a no-deal Brexit. Mr Johnson orders a purge of rebel Tories who opposed the Government including former chancellors Philip Hammond and Sir Kenneth Clarke.

The Prime Minister attempts to trigger an early general election but fails to get the required support of two-thirds of MPs.

September 24, 2019 – The Supreme Court rules that the PM’s advice to the Queen to suspend Parliament until October 14 was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating Parliament.

October 2, 2019 – Mr Johnson puts forward his formal Brexit plan to the EU, revealing his blueprint to solve the Irish border issue.

October 10, 2019 – Mr Johnson and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar say they can see a ‘pathway to a deal’, in a joint statement after key talks at a luxury hotel in Cheshire.

October 17, 2019 – After intense negotiations, the Prime Minister announces the UK has reached a ‘great deal’ with the EU which ‘takes back control’ and means that ‘the UK can come out of the EU as one United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, together’.

October 19, 2019 – In the first Saturday sitting of the Commons in 37 years Mr Johnson seeks the support of MPs in a ‘meaningful vote’ on his new deal but instead they back an amendment forcing him to seek a delay.

October 22, 2019 – The Prime Minister mounts an attempt to fast-track his Brexit deal through Parliament but puts the plans on ice after MPs vote against his foreshortened timetable.

October 28, 2019 – EU leaders agree to a second Brexit ‘flextension’ until January 31 unless Parliament ratifies the deal sooner.

October 29, 2019 – Mr Johnson finally succeeds at the fourth attempt in winning Commons support for a general election on December 12.

December 12, 2019 – Having campaigned on a promise to ‘get Brexit done’, Mr Johnson secures a landslide win at the election and with an 80-seat majority.

January 8, 2020 – New European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen visits No 10 to warn Mr Johnson the timetable for a post-Brexit trade deal is ‘very, very tight’. The Prime Minister is clear however there will be no extension to the transition period, which expires at the end of 2020.

January 9, 2020 – Mr Johnson gets his Brexit deal through the Commons as the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill is given a third reading with a majority of 99.

January 31, 2020 – A clock projected on the walls of Downing Street counts down the moments to the UK’s departure from the EU at 11pm.

March 2, 2020 – Mr Barnier and Mr Johnson’s chief EU adviser David Frost open formal talks in Brussels on Britain’s future relationship with the bloc, including a free trade agreement.

March 12, 2020 – The two sides announce they are suspending face-to-face talks due to the coronavirus pandemic and will explore the options for continuing the negotiations by video conferencing.

June 12, 2020 – Cabinet office minister Michael Gove formally tells the EU the UK will not sign up to an extension to the transition period, but he backtracks on plans to immediately introduce full border checks with the bloc on January 1.

September 10, 2020 – The European Commission threatens the UK with legal action after ministers announce plans for legislation enabling them to override provisions in the Withdrawal Agreement relating to Northern Ireland in breach of international law.

October 16, 2020 – Mr Johnson says he is halting talks on a trade deal accusing EU leaders meeting for a summit in Brussels of seeking to impose ‘unacceptable’ demands.

November 7, 2020 – Mr Johnson and Mrs von der Leyen agree to ‘redouble’ their efforts to get a deal while acknowledging that significant differences remain over fisheries and the so-called ‘level playing field’ for state aid rules.

December 4, 2020 – Lord Frost and Mr Barnier announce in a joint statement the conditions for an agreement had still not been met and negotiations will be put on ‘pause’ to allow political leaders to take stock, with Mr Johnson and Mrs Von der Leyen to engage in emergency talks.

December 7, 2020 – In a key move to ease tensions, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and EU counterpart Maroš Šefčovič settle the row over the Withdrawal Agreement, meaning planned clauses that would have overridden the divorce terms are dropped.    

December 9, 2020 – Mr Johnson and Mrs Von der Leyen dine at the European Commission, with talks between the two leaders lasting around three hours.

They warned ‘very large gaps’ remain, but authorised further discussions between the negotiating teams, with a ‘firm decision’ due on Sunday.

December 10, 2020 – Ms von der Leyen pushes the button on the EU’s No Deal contingency plans. Mr Johnson warns No Deal is now a strong possibility. 

December 11, 2020 – Mr Johnson says No Deal is ‘very very likely’ and the most probably outcome from the standoff.

December 16, 2020 – At the last PMQs of the year, Mr Johnson insists the UK will ‘prosper mightily’ whatever the result of the talks.

December 17, 2020 – MPs are sent home for Christmas with a warning that they will be recalled if a Brexit deal needs to be passed into law before January 1. 

December 19, 2020 – Mr Johnson announces that a mutant version of coronavirus has been identified in the UK. A host of countries impose travel restrictions, with France saying no freight will be allowed in for 48 hours. It sparks fears over supermarket shortages, although Brexiteers complain it is partly strong arm tactics in the negotiations. 

Christmas Eve, 2020 – a Brexit deal is finally sealed between the two sides, with Mr Johnson insisting it ‘takes back control’ and Ms von der Leyen saying it is ‘fair’.

December 30, 2020 – MPs and Peers are set to pass the legislation underpinning the agreement  

11pm December 31, 2020 – The Brexit transition period will end and the UK will be under new trade – or WTO – terms. 

I see no traps… that’s why I’ll seize our day of destiny  

Commentary by Andrew Bridgen, Tory MP for North West Leicestershire  

Andrew Bridgen (pictured), Tory MP for North West Leicestershire

The hour of freedom approaches. The moment of destiny is almost here. In just two days, Britain will once again take its place on the global stage as an independent nation.

That inspirational reality was fulfilled last week by the impressive Brexit trade deal negotiated by the British Government and the EU, heralding a new era of free co-operation in place of the former dominance by Brussels.

It was the cause of Euroscepticism that first led to my involvement in politics 20 years ago, when I joined the group Business For Sterling to campaign against Britain’s membership of the single currency, then an enthusiasm of Tony Blair’s. And as a member of the European Research Group (ERG) in Parliament – which consists of Eurosceptic MPs – I wouldn’t back anything undermining our independence.

But I’m satisfied the deal reached by the Prime Minister and his chief negotiator Lord Frost fully achieves the goal of Brexit. Since the welcome news of the breakthrough on Christmas Eve, I’ve seen nothing in the small print of real concern, though I would have preferred Parliament to have more time to scrutinise it.

Even so, it does not appear there are any nasty traps in the document. Indeed, I’m tremendously reassured by the verdict yesterday of the ERG Star Chamber – made up of the incisive minds of the ex-Cabinet minister David Jones, the lawyer Martin Howe and the veteran expert Sir Bill Cash – which stated that the deal is ‘consistent with UK sovereignty’.

In practice, Britain has everything it wants. From January, our country will decide its own laws, fix its own immigration rules, conclude its own international trade agreements, set its own taxes and make its own social policies. We are truly about to ‘take back control’, to quote the slogan of the Leave campaign.

Free movement will end, as will the jurisdiction of the European courts and the vast contributions to Brussels’ coffers. If you had offered me such a deal even before the Brexit campaign began, I would have bitten off not just your hands, but your arms and legs as well.

Andrew Bridgen, Tory MP for North West Leicestershire said: ‘I’m satisfied the deal reached by the Prime Minister and his chief negotiator Lord Frost fully achieves the goal of Brexit’

One of the beauties of the deal is a four-year break clause allowing a full review of its operation. Either side can walk away if they’re unhappy.

But the EU will be only too grateful for any future trading relationship with Britain as the bloc’s share of the global economy diminishes. In contrast, freed from the shackles of the EU’s bureaucratic regulation, Britain will flourish, exploiting our advantages of a flexible labour market, a world lead in innovation (in artificial intelligence and digital technology), the gift of the English language and our cultural power.

We could, for instance, create a free trade area with Canada, Australia and New Zealand based on our shared heritage and head of state.

In the final negotiations, the biggest obstacle was fishing rights, since control of our waters is a symbol of nationhood. But here, too, I am satisfied – although the gradual cut in EU quotas is smaller than we had hoped.

The terms give us nine months’ notice to depart the fisheries accord, while the transition period of five and a half years will provide time to rebuild coastal communities.

‘We were sustained by certain factors. First, the role of the Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage, who was ready to seize on any retreat,’ said Andrew Bridgen

Overall, Lord Frost and his team did a superb job, but they couldn’t have managed it without the firm leadership of Boris Johnson, who set out his red lines and refused to cross them. That was in dramatic contrast to his predecessor Theresa May, whose disastrous Chequers proposal in July 2018 would have reduced Britain to a vassal state, more restrictive than EU membership.

Her submissive approach – a Brexit in name only – not only dealt Boris Johnson and Lord Frost a difficult hand when they took over, but also justified the opposition of the ERG.

We were determined not to surrender to siren calls for compromise. There were moments when, to quote the Duke of Wellington about Waterloo, ‘it was a damned close-run thing’, particularly during the third meaningful vote when it looked as if our band of 28 might be overwhelmed.

But we were sustained by certain factors. First, the role of the Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage, who was ready to seize on any retreat.

The second was the arrogance of Remain MPs. They had the numbers for a soft, meaningless Brexit, but overplayed their hand in of their eagerness to overturn the result.

The comprehensive nature of their defeat is illustrated by the fact that today, it is the Eurosceptics who will be voting for a sensible EU trade deal, while the hardline Europhiles – including Labour rebels, the SNP and Liberal Democrats – will be going through intellectual contortions to rationalise their opposition. They’re like Japanese soldiers in the jungle, still engaged in a futile fight after the war has been lost.

However, the greatest source of strength for the Brexit cause was the British people, who never wavered in their belief that the 2016 vote must be properly enacted. In the face of Remain hysteria they stood firm. Now, with the arrival of independence, they have their reward. 

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